California moves ahead with health care for illegal immigrants

California’s governor, state Assembly and Senate are pushing for extending government-funded health care coverage to illegal immigrants, though they currently differ on how to go about doing so. [NBC News]

Gov. Gavin Newsom, who campaigned on a platform of universal health care, is proposing spending about $98 million a year to cover low-income illegal immigrants between the ages of 19 and 25. If the state were to adopt his proposal, California would become the first state in the country to offer government-funded health care to adult illegal immigrants. Nonetheless, both houses of the Legislature are discussing even more generous proposals. 

The state Senate is proposing legislation that would cover adults 19 to 25 and seniors 65 and older. Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, the sponsor of the bill, has scoffed at concerns about the cost, noting the state has a projected $21.5 billion budget surplus.

An Assembly bill would go even further, covering all illegal immigrants above the age of 19. Newsom has withheld support for the plan because of its estimated $3.4 billion price tag.

“There’s 3.4 billion reasons why it is a challenge,” Newsom said.

The Senate and Assembly will finalize their budget proposals this week before starting negotiations with the governor. State law requires that a budget be passed by June 15 or lawmakers forfeit their pay.

Republic state Sen. Jeff Stone criticized the idea of government-funded health coverage for illegal immigrants.

“We’re going to penalize the citizens of this state that have followed the rules, but we’re going to let somebody who has not followed the rules come in here and get the services for free. I just think that’s wrong,” Stone said.

The proposals California is considering would put the state on yet another collision course with the Trump Administration, which has proposed a regulation that would hinder immigrants’ residency applications if they receive public assistance in the form of programs like Medicaid.

California has 3 million residents who do not have health insurance. Of those 3 million residents, about 1.8 million are illegal immigrants, legislative staffers say. About 1.26 million of the illegal immigrants who lack health insurance have incomes low enough to qualify for Medi-Cal.

Meanwhile, California is also considering a proposal to require all state residents to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. Funds raised from the penalty would go toward assisting middle-income residents purchase private health insurance plans.