California lawmakers are weighing proposals to offer taxpayer-funded free healthcare to some illegal immigrants living in the state.
Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom is mulling over plans to grant $98 million of state funds per year to offer government-funded health care to a large number of illegal immigrants.
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Washingtontimes.com reports: The state Assembly has a bill that would cover all immigrants in California living in the country illegally over the age of 19. But Newsom has balked at that plan because of its estimated $3.4 billion price.
“There’s 3.4 billion reasons why it is a challenge,” he said.
The state Senate wants to cover adults ages 19 to 25, plus seniors 65 and older. That bill’s sponsor, Sen. Maria Elana Durazo, scoffed at cost concerns, noting the state has a projected $21.5 billion budget surplus.
“When we have, you know, a good budget, then what’s the reason for not addressing it?” she said.
The Senate and Assembly will finalize their budget proposals this week before beginning negotiations with the governor. State law says a budget has to be passed by June 15 or lawmaker forfeit their pay.
At stake, according to legislative staffers, are the 3 million people left in California who don’t have health insurance. About 1.8 million of them are immigrants in the country illegally. Of those, about 1.26 million have incomes low enough to qualify them for the Medi-Cal program.
“Symbolically, this is quite significant. This would be establishing California as a counter to federal policies, both around health care and immigration,” said Larry Levitt, senior vice president for health reform at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
If enacted, it could prompt yet another collision with the Trump administration, which has proposed a rule that could hinder immigrants’ residency applications if they rely on public assistance programs such as Medicaid.
The proposed rule from the Department of Homeland Security says the goal is to make sure “foreign nationals do not become dependent on public benefits for support.”
California is also considering a measure requiring everyone in the state to purchase health insurance. People who refuse would have to pay a penalty, and the money would go toward helping middle-income residents purchase private health insurance plans.
“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,” Republican state Sen. Jeff Stone said about coverage of people in the U.S. illegally.
Many immigrants who are in the country illegally are already enrolled for some government-funded programs, but they only cover emergencies and pregnancies.