This is fact! On January 1, 2020, California will become the first state in the nation to allow low-income undocumented adults aged 19-26 to sign up for state-funded health coverage.
Currently, only a handful of cities or counties in the United States offer health care coverage for undocumented immigrants. These include Los Angeles County‘s My Health LA program, and San Francisco‘s Healthy San Francisco.
Since 2016 California children and teens qualified for Medi-Cal, California’s version of Medicaid, the state-federal health insurance program for the poor. However, since the 2016 expansion of Medi-Cal to children and teens, California has not tracked how often young people in the program visit the doctor or dentist or whether it saves the state money by keeping children out of emergency rooms. Covering children and teens who are undocumented costs the state more than $360 million a year. Washington, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. also offer their state’s version of Medicaid to undocumented low-income children.
But in 2020 California will become the first state to allow undocumented adults aged 19-26 to sign up for Medi-Cal. It will cost at least $98 million in the upcoming fiscal year and cover about 138,000 adults. California’s expansion of Medicaid to unauthorized immigrants direct conflicts with Trump administration policies, but it’s not clear that it actually violates federal law.
Medicaid is the largest insurer in the country, with 73 million people enrolled, mostly low-income or disabled. In California, 13.5 million people are on Medi-Cal, or roughly one in three Californians. The program grew by 3.6 million people when it was expanded under the Affordable Care Act.
Supporters of such legislation believe that making healthcare accessible to these communities reduces public expenditures in the long run by addressing medical needs earlier when they are less expensive to treat or by increasing public health overall, such as through making vaccinations and health screenings accessible. Supporters also claim that undocumented immigrants contribute at least $3.2 billion in taxes to California.
Critics believe that lax immigration policies will encourage more illegal immigration to the United States. They also argue undocumented immigrants may overuse services without contributing enough to the tax base, increasing the burden on tax-paying citizens.
The new California budget also includes a fine on people who don’t buy health insurance known as an individual mandate. Lawmakers intend that revenue from the mandate will fund insurance premium subsidies for middle-income people.
What do you think? Should government-funded healthcare for low-income undocumented immigrants save public money in the long term? Or does it encourage more illegal immigration?