The Washington Post

California plans to extend health insurance for undocument­ed immigrants

Budget expansion is expected to affect about 90,000 young adults

- BY SCOTT WILSON scott.wilson@washpost.com

California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first budget will include money to extend public health insurance coverage to young adult undocument­ed immigrants, making the state the first to take that step amid the national debate about the cost and consequenc­es of people in the country illegally.

In a budget agreement reached over the weekend between Newsom and the Democrat-controlled legislatur­e, undocument­ed immigrants up to 25 years old will have the ability to sign up for Medi-Cal, the state health insurance plan for the poor. Children brought to the United States as minors by undocument­ed immigrants — known as “Dreamers” — were already eligible for the program.

The expansion, which is expected to affect about 90,000 young adults, would begin Jan. 1 and is estimated to cost $98 million in its first year, a small fraction of the state’s roughly $213 billion budget. The full legislatur­e must vote by June 15 on the budget deal, which is expected to pass easily.

The agreement marked a middle ground in the legislatur­e’s debate, which pitted Democrat against Democrat in a state where the Republican Party has virtually vanished, over how many more undocument­ed immigrants to allow into the $100 billion annual health insurance program.

Leading into the negotiatio­ns, the California Senate had passed a proposal that would have extended Medi-Cal eligibilit­y to low-income undocument­ed seniors over the age of 65, in addition to the young adults that the deal now includes. The majority of those young adults already are covered by Medi-Cal for emergency services.

The Assembly went a step further. In its proposal, all undocument­ed immigrants in the state would be eligible for Medi-Cal. The cost of that expansion was estimated to exceed $3 billion a year, which — even with a $20 billion budget surplus — Newsom and more-conservati­ve Democrats deemed too expensive.

In a statement on the agreement, Newsom said the spending plan is “balanced, creates historic reserves and expands budget resiliency.”

“It also invests in emergency preparedne­ss and response, provides sustainabl­e funding for safe drinking water and includes important funding augmentati­ons to address the cost crisis in our state,” Newsom said.

California has the nation’s largest population of undocument­ed immigrants, with about 2.2 million people living in the state without proper residency papers or visas.

The legislatur­e declared California a “sanctuary state” in 2017, largely in response to the Trump administra­tion’s aggressive policies and rhetoric toward undocument­ed immigrants. The law, known as the California Values Act, significan­tly limited the cooperatio­n state law enforcemen­t officials can provide to federal immigratio­n officials.

The state also has sued the Trump administra­tion over its use of a national emergency declaratio­n to secure funds for the constructi­on of a barrier along the southern border with Mexico.

But the budget agreement disappoint­ed some advocates for immigrants, who called it a halfmeasur­e at a time when money is available to fund a broader MediCal expansion.

In a statement posted on Twitter, the California Immigrant Policy Center called the funding to include young adults in the MediCal expansion “a clear step forward.” But the group criticized the exclusion of undocument­ed seniors from the budget agreement and the failure to include another proposal that would have made more undocument­ed immigrants eligible for the earned income tax credit.

“The exclusion of undocument­ed elders from the same health care their U.S. citizen neighbors are eligible for means beloved community members will suffer and die from treatable conditions,” the group’s statement said.

 ?? RICH PEDRONCELL­I/ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Oralia Sandoval, center, holds her son Benjamin, 6, at the Immigrants Day of Action rally on May 20 in Sacramento.
RICH PEDRONCELL­I/ASSOCIATED PRESS Oralia Sandoval, center, holds her son Benjamin, 6, at the Immigrants Day of Action rally on May 20 in Sacramento.

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