True to his word, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers have agreed to a new budget which includes $98 million to provide full health benefits to 90,000 illegals. The measure will allow low-income undocumented adults under the age of 26 to sign up for Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program. It is expected to take effect on January 1, 2020.
This agreement, announced late Sunday, makes California the first state to offer health insurance to illegal immigrants.
According to the legislature’s Budget Conference Committee documents, they will use an “extraordinary” state budget surplus to pay for it. Lawmakers had hoped to extend the benefit to undocumented seniors as well, but were unable to reach agreement at this time.
The state has adopted the “individual mandate” which imposes a fine on people who choose not to purchase health insurance. This feature was part of Obama’s Affordable Care Act until it was repealed in 2017. Many of the Americans who were forced to pay this fine did not purchase health care because they could not afford it, which I assume will be true of many Californians who will become subject to it. Yet, they will now have to subsidize the health care of illegals.
The Sacramento Bee reports that “revenue from the mandate will also fund insurance premium subsidies for middle income people. The budget agreement also includes an additional $450 million over three years to fund insurance subsidies after some lawmakers argued mandate revenue alone wouldn’t make health insurance affordable.”
Anthony Wright, executive director of advocacy group Health Access, said, “The budget agreement will help hundreds of thousands of Californians access health care. While it’s not all we sought, it will provide a real tangible difference for people, especially for those around and below poverty and for middle income families who don’t get any help under the federal law.”
Cynthia Buiza, executive director of the California Immigrant Policy Center, said in a statement:
For California’s immigrant communities, today’s budget deal is bittersweet. The exclusion of undocumented elders from the same health care their U.S. citizen neighbors are eligible for means beloved community members will suffer and die from treatable conditions. And the exclusion of many immigrants from the Earned Income Tax Credit will perpetuate the crisis of economic inequality in our state.
Although the $98 million price tag is a small portion of the state’s $213 billion budget, these initiatives have a way of “expanding” rapidly. It likely won’t be long before undocumented seniors are added to the plan and more immigrants become eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit.
I hope there’s something left in that budget to address the growing problems of homelessness and filth on the streets of the state’s largest cities. But, I know, priorities.
The state’s Republican lawmakers “on the budget committee voted against a number of spending proposals Sunday night.” However, Democrats currently hold “supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature.”
State Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) told the Sacramento Bee, “I’ve been voting no or abstaining on a lot of spending opportunities. Some people think the glass is half full, I’m looking at it as half empty, so that will maybe explain my caution on a lot of these spending votes tonight.”
It must be frustrating to be a Republican in the California State Legislature.