Healthcare

California may offer free healthcare to immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally

According to various reports, California lawmakers are considering a proposal that would make the state the first in the U.S. to offer government-funded healthcare to immigrants in the country illegally.

Governor Gavin Newson wants to spend $98 million to cover low-income immigrants between the ages 19-25 who are living in the U.S. illegally, according to ABC 7 Eyewitness News.

There’s currently a plan on the table from the State Assembly to cover all illegal immigrants in the state over the age of 19, but Newsom is opposed to the plan because of its $3.4 billion price tag. Another bill from the State Senate proposes coverage of illegal immigrants ages 19-26 and 65 and older. Proponents of the more expansive bill argue that the state can afford it since it has a projected $21.5 billion budget surplus for the year.

“They work in our hotels, they work picking the fruit and vegetables, they work as landscapers, they work in hospitals,” said state Democratic senator Maria Elena Durazo, who authored the more expansive senate bill. “I don’t think they should be treated differently from other Californians.”

From ABC 7:

At stake, according to legislative staffers, are the 3 million people left in California who don’t have health insurance. About 1.8 million of them are immigrants in the country illegally. Of those, about 1.26 million have incomes low enough to qualify them for the Medi-Cal program.

“Symbolically, this is quite significant. This would be establishing California as a counter to federal policies, both around health care and immigration,” said Larry Levitt, senior vice president for health reform at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

If enacted, it could prompt yet another collision with the Trump administration, which has proposed a rule that could hinder immigrants’ residency applications if they rely on public assistance programs such as Medicaid.

As the National Review points out, MediCal covers everyone under 18 and all pregnant women regardless of their legal status. California’s State Legislature is 75 percent Democrat, so there will be little opposition to the expanded healthcare benefits to illegal immigrants. The only disagreement is over the cost.

Featured image: Joanne Wan/Flickr

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