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Santa Barbara County Undocumented Children to Receive Expanded Health Coverage Through Medi-Cal

A state law going into effect this month would make several thousand undocumented children in Santa Barbara County eligible for full-scope Medi-Cal coverage

Starting this month, undocumented children 19 and under in California are eligible for full-scope Medi-Cal coverage, including an estimated 3,000-4,000 children in Santa Barbara County.

Senate Bill 75, signed into law last June, expands health insurance coverage options to undocumented children.

Currently, many of these children are enrolled in limited Medi-Cal plans or the state’s Healthy Kids programs, local health insurance programs that cover children who aren’t eligible for public programs due to immigration status or family income level.

In response to SB 75, the Healthy Kids programs will be phased out in the coming weeks. Healthy Kids Santa Barbara has provided medical, dental, and vision coverage for uninsured children since it was created in 2006 by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, and is administratively supported by the Santa Barbara County Education Office’s Child Development Linkages.

On the same day SB 75 was signed into law last year, the supervisors approved $1 million in General Fund money for the Children’s Health Initiative of Santa Barbara, the advisory board for the county’s Healthy Kids program.

Though the coverage changes are going into effect this month, Healthy Kids probably won’t be phased out until around the end of June, said Dr. Takashi Wada, the director and public health officer of the Public Health Department. 

“We didn’t want to end Healthy Kids too early and then have individuals fall into a gap period before their other coverage kicked in,” he told Noozhawk. 

“We’re kind of watching to see how the transition goes with Medi-Cal.”

Rolling out SB 75 will take a couple months, he said, and children’s new expanded coverage will be applied retroactively to May 1.

Wada said that the county will be watching the roll-out process carefully to see if folks who currently use the county as their primary health care provider will continue using Public Health services after receiving full-scope Medi-Cal coverage.

CenCal Health administers Medi-Cal locally and serves 20 percent of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.

The full-scope coverage these children will receive through CenCal and its California counterparts includes doctor visits, hospitalizations, prescription drugs, preventative and specialty care, emergency services, vaccines, and dental visits.

Children who already have restricted-scope Medi-Cal coverage won’t have to re-apply for the full-scope coverage, but children who are only covered by the Healthy Kids programs must, and are encouraged to do so as soon as possible.

The number of undocumented children affected by the health care change fluctuates and is inherently difficult to determine, Wada told Noozhawk.

“Based on our experience in working with other provider agencies, we think it could be somewhere around 3,000 to 4,000,” he said.

To be eligible for Medi-Cal coverage, a family of four’s household income would have to be lower than $64,639 — or under 266 percent of the federal poverty level.

The Medi-Cal application can be done online and requires a birth certificate, proof that one lives locally, proof of identification and income information.

According to data from the Migration Policy Institute and the Center for Migration Studies, there are roughly 3 million undocumented immigrants in California, nearly two-thirds of whom lack health coverage and virtually all of whom fall below the Medi-Cal family income threshold.

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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