California extends Medi-Cal to adult illegal immigrants

Never mind the crisis at the border. Today, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB 104, which extends Medi-Cal to eligible adults up to age 25 regardless of their immigration status. In other words, illegal immigrants still have to qualify for Medi-Cal, but if they do then California doesn’t care how they got here. From NPR:

The measure signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday extends coverage to low-income, undocumented adults age 25 and younger for the state’s Medicaid program.

Since 2016, California has allowed children under 18 to receive taxpayer-backed health care despite immigration status…

“We are going to be a magnet that is going to further attract people to a state of California that’s willing to write a blank check to anyone that wants to come here,” said Republican state Sen. Jeff Stone at a May legislative hearing. “We are doing a disservice to citizens who legally call California their home.”

The plan does not cover all unauthorized immigrants under 25, only those whose incomes are low enough to qualify. State officials estimate in the first year the program will cover about 138,000 residents and cost California taxpayers $98 million.

The big problem with this new law, as State Sen. Stone said, is that it creates a powerful new driver for illegal immigration. Most of the Central Americans crossing the border and claiming asylum at this moment are not going to be found eligible for asylum. That’s because they are in fact economic migrants looking for better jobs. For those people, adding free health care for young adults (as well as their kids) definitely makes traveling to the US border look more enticing. On an individual level that’s understandable. But collectively, that could mean tens of thousands more people coming here and gaming the asylum system to get what California is offering. In other words, this has the potential to make the current border crisis much worse once word gets around.

And as a taxpayer, it’s also not a great deal for the people who are going to be paying the bill. Of course, we all know how good California is at estimating the cost of expensive projects, like high-speed rail. We’ll have to wait and see what the true cost of this turns out to be.

Whatever it is, it’s just the first step. Newsom has already said he wants to make California a single-payer state. The last estimate of the cost of such a program (including illegal immigrants) was an eye-popping $400 billion per year, which is about double the state’s current annual budget. Maybe that’s the best way to look at this new law. It’s probably going to be bad news for taxpayers but not nearly as bad as what is coming next.

The new bill takes effect in January of 2020. Here’s a local news report on the new law. And below that, a reminder that this is coming nationwide if Democrats have anything to say about it.