California governor signs illegal immigrant health care bill into law

Gavin Newsom

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law on Tuesday that will extend government-funded health care coverage to young adult illegal immigrants at a cost of nearly $100 million a year.

The signing of SB 104 makes California the first state in the country to provide government-funded health care to illegal immigrants. Newsom said during a speech Tuesday that the measure is an incremental step toward providing health care to everyone under the age of 26 and eventually to universal coverage.

“We’re providing health care for everyone, regardless of immigration status,” Newsom said. 

SB 104 will allow adults between the ages of 19 and 25 who are living in the United States illegally to become eligible for California’s Medicaid program. In order to participate in the program, it will also be necessary for the young adults to have an income low enough to qualify for Medicaid. 

The program will cost an estimated $98 million and cover an additional 90,000 people. It will be funded, at least in part, by the state levying a tax on Californians who do not have health insurance, a policy modeled after the scrapped Obamacare penalty at the federal level. 

Prior to reaching a compromise with Newsom, the state Senate proposed legislation that would cover illegal immigrant adults ages to 19 to 25 and 65 and older. An Assembly bill called for covering all illegal immigrants above the age of 19.

SB 104 passed the state Senate and Assembly on 28-11 and 56-17 votes respectively. Republican lawmakers have argued it is not fair to give health benefits to illegal immigrants while taxing people living in the state legally for not purchasing health insurance. 

Expanded health care coverage under SB 104 will take effect in 2020.