More than 700,000 immigrants living illegally in the US state of California have gained access to free health care in the state as of January 1, 2024.

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Under a state law that took effect today, all undocumented immigrants, regardless of age, will have full access to Medi-Cal. 

"Medi-Cal" is California's local version of the federal "Medic-aid" health insurance program and is used by low-income residents. 

Previously, undocumented immigrants were not eligible for comprehensive health insurance. 

However, in 2014, they were allowed to receive emergency and pregnancy-related services provided under Medi-Cal if they met 'eligibility' requirements, such as income and California residency.

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In 2015, undocumented children were also included in Medi-Cal under a law signed by then Governor Jerry Brown of California.

In 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation expanding full Medi-Cal access for young adults aged 19-25, regardless of citizenship or immigration status. 

Access was later expanded to allow people 50 and older to receive full benefits regardless of immigration status. 

According to State Senator Maria Elena Durazo, the latest expansion, which takes effect today, makes nearly 700,000 undocumented immigrants between the ages of 26 and 49 eligible for full coverage.

The new program, signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, will cost California, the most populous state in the US with 39 million people, about $3.1 billion a year.

Editor: David Goodman