From Daniel J.B. Mitchell (editor), California Policy Options 2016, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs

In November 2014, President Obama announced the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the creation of a new program, Deferred Action for Parents of U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). More than one million undocumented immigrants in California became potentially eligible for work authorization and relief from deportation under these executive actions. As of this writing,a court decision has blocked implementation of the President’s actions while an appeal to that decision is being considered.

This chapter discusses the health insurance status, Medi-Cal eligibility, and demographics of California immigrants eligible for the original and the expanded DACA programs and for DAPA. These immigrants are not eligible for health insurance options under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). But Californians who are granted DACA or DAPA become eligible for comprehensive Medi-Cal coverage under state policy if otherwise eligible based on income.

California recently approved an expansion of comprehensive Medi-Cal to all undocumented children age 18 and under, to be implemented as soon as May 2016. Approximately 250,000 undocumented California children are projected to be eligible for Medi-Cal under that expansion, according to previous research.

Using the latest Current Population Survey (CPS) data, we estimate that:

  • Up to 54% of Californian adults eligible for DACA or DAPA lacked private health insurance and had income below the Medi-Cal eligibility threshold in 2013.
  • We estimate that between 310,000 and 440,000 Californian adults with DACA or DAPA could be eligible for Medi-Cal several years after implementation of both executive actions. This estimate is contingent on sign-up rates for DACA and DAPA, which are highly uncertain.
  • Most of these adults (80%) are DAPA-eligible, while the others are already eligible for the original DACA program or would become eligible for expanded DACA after the 2014 executive action is implemented.
  • Not all Californians who are granted DACA or DAPA and are eligible for Medi-Cal would be anticipated to enroll in health coverage.
  • Approximately two-thirds (66%) of DACA- and DAPA-eligible adults were working in 2013.
  • More than nine out of ten (91%) Californian adults eligible for DACA or DAPA were under age 45 in 2013.