California Contemplating Health Insurance for Illegal Immigrants
California lawmakers are finding themselves coming face-to-face with stories from around the state about illegal immigrants who cannot afford the most basic of healthcare. Clinics, such as the one in San Diego that treated an immigrant suspected of having cancer, cannot run the needed tests to help their patients simply because they do not have the right equipment for it. Many immigrants cannot afford to go to a specialist or even qualify for state assistance because of their illegal status.
If California lawmakers have their way, these situations will be a thing of the past. Lawmakers in the state are starting to consider proposals to offer government-funded healthcare to adult immigrants that like in the state even if they are here illegally. It would make California the first state in the United States to offer such a benefit to illegal immigrants. The only thing holding up the decision: who is going to pay the approximate $98 million a year the governor wants to spend to cover the low-income illegal immigrants between the ages of 19 and 25.
While there is currently a bill in the California State Assembly to cover all immigrants over the age of 19 in the state, the governor is hesitant to push it through simply because of the estimated $3.4 billion it will take to put it in place. The State Senate wants to ensure that adults age 19 to 25 and seniors over 65 are covered.
It’s interesting to note that, while providing the healthcare will be a challenge, the state currently has a projected $21.5 billion budget surplus, a fact that bothers Senator Maria Elana Durazo, the sponsor of the Senate bill that will cover the adults aged 19 to 25 and seniors. To make things even more interesting, lawmakers must pass a budget by June 15, 2019, or they will forfeit their pay. Both the Senate and Assembly will start finalizing their budget proposals this week in order to sit down and negotiate with the governor over the fate of healthcare for the state’s illegal immigrants.
Larry Levitt, senior vice president for health reform at the Kaiser Family Foundation, understand how significant these budget proposals are. “This would be establishing California as a counter to federal policies, both around health care and immigration,” he said. Currently, 3 million people in the state of California do not have health insurance, with about 1.8 million of them illegal immigrants. Of those 1.8 million, 1.26 million qualify for the Medi-Cal program.
If California lawmakers can enact a law that provides illegal immigrants with healthcare, it will go against the Trump administration’s propose rule that could potentially hinder an immigrant’s residency application simply because they are relying on public assistance programs. This rule, according to the Department of Homeland Security, is to ensure that “foreign nationals do not become dependent on public benefits for support.”
The state is also looking at a controversial measure that requires everyone in the state to purchase some type of healthcare insurance. Like the Obamacare penalty rule overturned by the Trump administration, people who do not carry the insurance will pay a penalty that will then be used to assist middle-income residents of California in purchasing health insurance via a private carrier.
Many illegal immigrants in the United States are already receiving some assistance from government-funded programs that cover emergencies and pregnancies. Immigrant activists are looking to the state lawmakers to help improve the services they are receiving, pushing the conversation from cost to families.
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