Undocumented immigrants are eligible for free health care in California


Cash-strapped California will ring in the new year by offering free health care to all undocumented immigrants who qualify for a government-run health insurance program.

The state, which faces a $68 billion deficit next fiscal year, has been steadily expanding access to its Medi-Cal health insurance program for low-income residents, allowing undocumented children to qualify for the taxpayer-funded program in 2015 ., then expanded under Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom to include undocumented adults between the ages of 19-25 and those over 50.

On Jan. 1, California will become the first state to offer free health care to all eligible individuals — regardless of immigration status or age.

In May, Democrats in the California Legislature celebrated a budget deal reached by Newsom and state lawmakers that led to the latest Medi-Cal expansion, which will bring full coverage under the program to about 700,000 undocumented immigrants ages 26-49 years.

All undocumented immigrants in California will be eligible for free health care in 2024. AFP via Getty Images
California faces a $68 billion budget deficit next fiscal year. AP

“This historic investment speaks to California’s commitment to health care as a human right,” state Sen. Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles) said at the time.

“It’s a game changer,” said Rep. Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles). “This is one of the most important pieces of legislation that will pass through this chamber, because the ability to have health care means the ability to live without pain.”

However, some health experts worry that expanding the program is unwise given the unprecedented shortfall in government revenue and health care shortages.

“Expansion was a bad idea when the state coffers were full. Now that California is struggling to make ends meet, using taxpayer money to cover non-citizens is simply irresponsible,” said Sally Pipes, a health policy expert and president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute, a California-based think tank. . The message.

“Many on Medi-Cal are already having difficulty finding doctors to treat them because of the low levels of reimbursement these doctors receive from the government,” Pipes added. “If those on Medi-Cal can find a doctor, they face a very long wait for care.”

Simon Hankinson, a border security and immigration expert at the Heritage Foundation, said in a social media post that he expects the federal government to eventually save the program.

“No surprise [California], despite the budget deficit, will give illegal immigrants subsidized health care,” Hankinson wrote to X. “The question is how and when they will get the federal taxpayer to bail them out. New York, Illinois and Massachusetts want to know.”

The California Senate Republican Caucus also criticized the health plan expansion.

“Medi-Cal is already strained as it serves 14.6 million Californians – more than a third of the state’s population. Adding another 764,000 individuals to the system would certainly exacerbate current provider access problems,” the faction wrote in response to Newsom’s budget proposal last year.

The latest Medi-Cal expansion will cost $2.6 billion annually.

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