A California Democrat is promising he will reintroduce a bill that would give Medicaid coverage to illegal immigrants over the age of 19. State Assembly member Dr. Joaquin Arambula from Fresno made his announcement on Monday, according to The Los Angeles Times.
If Arambula gets his way with Assembly Bill 4, the full benefits of the California Medical Assistance Program (Medi-Cal) would be available for all low-income earners, even if they are illegal immigrants. Under current law, all children in California, whether illegal immigrants or not, have access to Medi-Cal benefits including hospitalization, prescription drugs, oral, and vision care. According to a Senate Bill Policy Committee analysis, by the end of 2017, 218,571 children who were illegal immigrants had enrolled in full-scope Medi-Cal.
California would be the first state to pass such legislation. As The Washington Examiner notes, “State projections for last year's bill found that 1.8 million people in California are uninsured and reside there illegally; roughly 1.2 million would qualify for Medi-Cal, the name of the state's Medicaid program.”
Last April, Senate Bill 974, introduced by state Sen. Ricardo Lara passed the Senate health committee. It stated, “An individual who is under 19 years of age, or 65 years of age and older, and who does not have satisfactory immigration status or is unable to establish satisfactory immigration status, as required by Section 14011.2, shall be eligible for the full scope of Medi-Cal benefits, if he or she is otherwise eligible for benefits under this chapter.”
Shortly afterward, Arambula's Assembly Bill 2965 was passed by the State Assembly's health committee. It stated, “This bill would extend eligibility for full-scope Medi-Cal benefits to individuals who are under 26 years of age and who are otherwise eligible for those benefits but for their immigration status.”
Neither of those bills made it into law, as Gov. Jerry Brown refused to fund them. Both of the earlier bills covered young adults between the ages of 19 and 26 and immigrants over the age of 65. The new bill is estimated to cost $3 billion a year, according to California's Legislative Analyst's Office.
Incoming Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to support efforts to offer Medi-Cal to illegal immigrants. He said in August, “I did universal healthcare when I was mayor — fully implemented, regardless of pre-existing condition, ability to pay, and regardless of your immigration status … I’d like to see that extended to the rest of the state … San Francisco is the only universal healthcare plan for all undocumented residents in America. Very proud of that. And we proved it can be done without bankrupting the city … The executive needs to lead it. ObamaCare would not have happened if it was just exclusively a legislative fiat. That said, Nancy Pelosi did a magical job of organizing it, but it required the concerted efforts of the president of the United States.”
Carolina Gamero, a spokeswoman for the California Immigrant Policy Center, stated, “It’s something that is urgently needed across immigrant communities in California. The longer that we wait and the longer we keep up this unjust exclusion, it’s really setting back California.”
Rachel Linn Gish, spokeswoman for consumer group Health Access California, echoed, “You cannot talk about universal health care in California unless you talk about health care for the undocumented.”