Soumya Karlamangla
October 9, 2015

Half of Californians in the country illegally would be eligible for the state’s healthcare program for the poor if it were expanded under a proposal by legislators, a new report finds.

Some California politicians are pushing to open up the $91-billion Medi-Cal program to people here illegally, since such immigrants are not allowed to sign up for insurance under Obamacare.

An analysis released Monday by the Public Policy Institute of California quantified just how much of a dent in the state’s uninsured population such a policy change could make.

The study found that of the estimated 2.6 million unauthorized immigrants in California, 51% make so little money they would qualify for Medi-Cal. To sign up for Medi-Cal, a single person or a couple must have an annual income of less than $16,243 and $21,984, respectively.

The report also found that nearly half a million people would be eligible for Medi-Cal in Los Angeles County alone. That’s not just because the county is home to the state’s biggest population of those here illegally, but also because those in L.A. County are more likely to live in poverty, according to institute researchers.

The study is the first to evaluate the size and incomes of California’s undocumented immigrant population at a county level. Shannon McConville, study author and research associate at the institute, said that with so many recent as well as proposed changes to California’s health policies, she and her colleagues wanted to assess how each county would be affected.

Over the last year, California politicians have taken steps to offer coverage to people who immigrated here illegally.

Last month, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law that for the first time provides healthcare to children in the country illegally, making California the largest state to do so. In addition, the number of counties that have committed to giving low-cost, government-run medical care to such residents jumped from 11 to 48 this year. Now only 10 counties provide nothing.
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