With the approval of a new $308 billion 2022-2023 budget on Thursday, California is poised to become the first state to offer free health coverage to all undocumented immigrants.
The historic measure, which is budgeted at $2.7 billion, includes enrolling undocumented immigrants between the ages of 26 and 49 in free health programs that would mean expanding Medi-Cal protection to more than 700,000 people, the healthiest The major expansion program since the passage of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).
State Senator Maria Elena Durazo on Twitter celebrated the measure as “a victory for the millions of undocumented Californians who contribute $3.7 billion in state and local taxes and more than $40 billion in purchasing power to our economy each year.” ” “We’re all going to be much better off once we all have access to healthcare,” he said.
The new California budget also includes funding for abortions for women who can’t afford them and refunds to most taxpayers to offset the high prices of gasoline ($6.30 per gallon, the most expensive in the country). In addition, it considers a record investment for public schools, including $2.8 billion to compensate school districts for falling enrollment as they reopen after the pandemic.
All thanks to a $97 billion surplus, the largest in history, harvested after, in the face of fears sparked by the pandemic, the country’s most populous state raised taxes and cut spending.
First state to offer free health coverage to all undocumented immigrants
Medi-Cal already offers discounted insurance to undocumented immigrants under the age of 26, over the age of 49, and recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
according to a study of Center for Labor Education and Research at the University of California at BerkeleyOf the 3.2 million uninsured people in the state, 1.3 million are undocumented migrants, the largest such group.
The budget signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom provides for all low-income adults, regardless of immigration status, to be eligible for state Medicaid.
Throughout the country, federal and state governments provide free health coverage to low-income adults and children through the Medicaid program. But the federal government excludes those who are in the country irregularly.
Immigrants living in the country irregularly number more than 22 million, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, an NGO in the health sector cited by the Associated Press. They are the largest uninsured group in the country.
And although they are not eligible for most public health services, they are slowly gaining access to some programs. 18 states offer prenatal care, and eight states offer free coverage to children from low-income families. California and Illinois also expanded coverage to immigrant older adults.
Now, California is going to become the first country to provide free health coverage to all from January 1, 2024.
“This is what it’s like to be pro-life,” Newsom wrote on Twitter, pointing to the recent Supreme Court strike on abortion as a constitutional right.
Difficulties facing California in expanding health
The first obstacle to expanding health coverage to all immigrants, already overcome, was opposition to the measure by Republican representatives and California conservative activists, who see the measure as a “magnet” that could cause a knock-on effect. .
This was said by John Couple, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, as quoted by the Associated Press.
“I think many of us have a great understanding of the immigrant community, but we really wish we had better control over who enters the country and the state,” Kopual said.
In any case, expanding California Medicaid won’t be easy due to an unfortunate confluence of events, some of which have been triggered by the pandemic, the end of federal policies.
That’s why some 40,000 low-income immigrants will lose their health coverage during the year 2023, before California’s expansion takes effect.
In the past, it has taken California between six months and a year to implement Medicaid expansion. Newson says his administration needs a year and a half because it’s a huge expansion.
Health care advocates say the coverage gap is significant for low-income immigrants living illegally in the country because they have no other choice.
Citizens, when they lose their Medicaid coverage, can purchase coverage from Covered California, the state-run health insurance exchange marketplace, and potentially qualify for a significant discount.
“But for this population, that’s all. (Medicaid) is the only public program available to them,” said Sarah Darr, director of public benefits and health policy at the California Immigrant Policy Center.
Democrats in the state legislature say they are working with the Newsom administration to speed up the process.
“We’re doing everything we can. We’re talking to the administration, (California) health department leaders to make sure we do it as quickly as possible and in the meantime Don’t lose any coverage,” said Democratic Senator Maria Elena Durazo.
“There’s no point in losing them and then taking them out and then putting them back in.”