California currently offers Medi-Cal to people under the age of 19 regardless of immigration status. Democrats in Sacramento have been pushing to expand that to illegal immigrants of any age but over the weekend they reached a compromise with Gov. Gavin Newsom. The new state budget which is set to pass this week will expand Medi-Cal to illegal immigrants from ages 19-25 but will not include the elderly. From the San Jose Mercury News:
The agreement includes funding to let undocumented adults under age 26 enroll in Medi-Cal, the state’s health insurance program for low-income Californians. But it doesn’t extend that eligibility to undocumented seniors, as state senators had proposed.
The expansion will take effect Jan. 1, 2020, and cost $98 million in the upcoming fiscal year. It will make California the first state to allow undocumented adults to sign up for state-funded health coverage…
Cynthia Buiza, executive director of the California Immigrant Policy Center, praised the deal for expanding state health care to undocumented young adults, but faulted the compromise for not including two other priorities for immigrant advocates. They wanted Newsom to offer health care for undocumented seniors and to extend the earned income tax credit to low-income undocumented immigrants.
So this is a disappointment to some activists but others see this as just the first step:
Anthony Wright, executive director of the advocacy group Health Access, said further expansion of the program could come in the future.
“We will continue to pursue steps towards the Governor’s & Legislature’s shared goal of getting to universal coverage in the next few years,” Wright posted on Twitter.
In fact, all of this is just scratching the surface of what candidate Newsom told the Pod Save America hosts last year he had in mind for the state. Newsom said his ultimate goal was to bring single-payer to California. He anticipated that would include illegal immigrants.
An estimate in May 2017 found that single-payer would cost the state $400 billion per year, half of which would be new spending. That total would include coverage for illegal immigrants in the state. Some Democrats led by the California Nurses’ Union pushed to adopt it but the battle turned ugly with reports of death threats. Eventually, the California Assembly signed a letter asking single-payer proponents to stop bullying them.
If anything, I suspect the estimates of the cost of these proposals, including this current one extending Medi-Cal to illegal immigrants, are going to be on the low side. As even Vox is now acknowledging, we already have a crisis on the southern border:
What’s happening at the border is the result of a regional crisis in which — if current rates continue — close to 1 percent of the entire population of Guatemala and Honduras will attempt to immigrate to the US this year.
So what happens when word gets back to people in Central America that California is offering free health care to anyone under 26 regardless of status? It’s a very simple principle: What you subsidize, you get more of. California is about to further subsidize illegal immigration.