LA needs more time to switch unauthorized kids' health care

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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is set to vote Tuesday to extend the deadline to transition thousands of children in the U.S. illegally from a county health care program to Medi-Cal. 

The children are enrolled in the county's My Health L.A program. A new state law that took effect this year makes all kids under the age of 19 whose family income is up to 266 percent of the federal poverty level eligible for Medi-Cal, regardless of their immigration status. 

Under the My Health L.A. contracts, children eligible for other coverage are no longer eligible for the county program. 

The county was supposed to transition all 10,000 kids who were on My Health L.A. to Medi-Cal by the end of this month. But as of October 31, 3,200 kids still hadn’t made the switch, according to the motion offered by Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis.

The proposal would extend the deadline on a month-to-month basis until the transition is complete.

The two supervisors' proposal declares that, with the election of Donald Trump, "there are elevated fears about enrolling in health coverage programs because personal information collected may be used to sequester and target individuals and families for deportation."

Trump has not specifically said he would pursue such a policy, but he has generally maintained a hard line with regard to unauthorized immigrants.

The motion would have the supervisors direct county counsel to provide a legal analysis of how best to protect data about unauthorized immigrant children in Medi-Cal "from government authorities."

Kuehl and Solis' motion also asks the board to direct the county Department of Health Services to launch an educational campaign using community health promoters to inform parents of children enrolled in My Health L.A. about the benefits of Medi-Cal "and to address any questions or concerns that parents may have about enrolling their undocumented children" in the program.

Under President Obama, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has said it does not use personal information provided for health care for purposes of immigration enforcement.

And California’s Department of Health Care Services, which operates Medi-Cal, "shares [personal health] information only with the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for the purpose of administering the Medicaid program," said spokesman Tony Cava.