By Richard Hernandez
In a move widely heralded by Democrats, humanitarians and advocates for immigrants and equally widely decried by Republicans, conservatives and advocates for indigenous American homeless and veterans, the State of California on Monday expanded health insurance to about 700,000 illegal aliens between the ages 26 and 49.
“California is more than just a state of dreamers, we’re a state of doers,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. Thanks to the legislature’s strong partnership in 2023, the state is leading by example to create opportunity, and advance and protect the rights of all Californians. In California, we believe everyone deserves access to quality, affordable health care coverage – regardless of income or immigration status.”
Newsom said those who participate in the program will be “able to get the care they need when they need it” and that the expansion of those that are covered to include all migrants living illegally in the Golden State proves his administration’s commitment toward “we’re making sure families and communities across California are healthier and stronger.”
The program makes California the first state in the nation to offer health insurance to all immigrants regardless of whether they are documented or not.
While California for decades in practice provided all pregnant women with medical assistance at virtually no charge, in 2014 officially made such care legally available.
Prior to 2016, undocumented immigrants were not qualified to receive comprehensive state-sponsored or taxpayer-defrayed health insurance beyond what was provided in hospital emergency rooms, which by law could not turn away the grievously injured.
Beginning in 2014, there was an effort in the California legislature to extend Medi-Cal benefits to illegal aliens, promoted by then-Assemblyman Ricardo Lara. Lara’s initial bill failed to gain passage, but in 2016 legislation was passed and signed into law by then-Governor Jerry Brown that extended Medi-Cal coverage to children without legal residency status. In 2019, Senate Bill 104, by which full-scope Medi-Cal access was extended to cover low-income illegal aliens aged 19 to 25, passed into law and was signed by Governor Gavin Newsom, going into effect on January 1, 2020.
U.S. citizens residing in California meeting low-income criteria become eligible for Medi-Cal upon eclipsing their 65th birthday. Legislation introduced by California Senator Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles) and Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno) in 2020 placed $1.3 billion into California’s 2021-2022 budget to provide Medi-Cal overage to illegal aliens over the age of 50. Thus, illegal aliens become eligible for California’s health care benefit at an age 15 years below that of U.S. citizens.
Governor Newsom signed the 2022-23 $307.9 billion operating budget on June 30, 2022, calling the expansion “a transformative step towards strengthening the healthcare system for all Californians.” That generosity made available coverage for an additional 764,000 illegal and unregistered immigrants in California willing to come forward and claim it, costing California and by extension U.S. taxpayers roughly $2.7 billion per year.
The 2022-23 California budget signed by Newsom did not extend to all of the calculated 764,000 impoverished and undocumented aliens living in California at once, as many were unidentified and unaware of the benefits that could be claimed or unwilling to do so out of concern that they could thereby be brought to the attention of federal immigration officials, leaving them vulnerable to deportation. Nevertheless, the budget appropriation at that time stood as a commitment to make all low-income non-citizens living here eligible for the state’s Medicaid program by 2024.
That objective as of Monday has now been achieved, with California having become the first state to guarantee free health care for all low-income immigrants living in the country illegally.
Democrats and other aligned with Newsom see the transformation in a very positive light.
State Senator Durazo last May spoke of making healthcare to all impoverished immigrants in California as an “historic investment” and a basic “human right.”
Durazo said the $2.6 billion cost of the program was one the state’s residents can easily bear.
California’s Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, who was appointed to that position by Newsom, said the giveaway of free medical treatment to people originating from outside the country who are here illegally and cannot pay for it is a monumental achievement. “No other state in the country has done more in the space of health care access and affordability than the state of California,” he said. “I am proud of this administration’s work to pioneer a comprehensive health care system that will become a national model for expanding access, reducing costs, improving services, and closing equity gaps.”
Others are less sanguine.
The California Senate Republican Caucus criticized Newsom’s placement of $2.7 billion to provided medical services to illegal aliens into California’s $307.9 billion 2022-23 operating budget.
“Medi-Cal is already strained by serving 14.6 million Californians – more than a third of the state’s population. Adding 764,000 more individuals to the system will certainly exacerbate current provider access problems,” the caucus stated in May 2022.
Fiscal conservatives say it is the governor’s and the Democrat-dominated state legislature’s profligate spending on programs such as the giveaways of free medical care to illegal aliens that had directly led to the $97.5 billion budget surplus California had in 2022 having transmogrified into what is now a $54 billion deficit.
A report by the non-partisan California Legislative Analyst’s Office says the state’s budget deficit has magnified exponentially in just six months, from $14.3 billion in June to $54 billion at present.
Newsom’s office acknowledges the deficit, but insists it is a product of “severe revenue decline.” If the state is missing its revenue projects, Newsom’s critics say, he should trim excessive spending accordingly. They say providing perquisites to non-citizens, particularly ones that have a $2.6 billion price tag, are the logical place to start.
It is pointed out that an estimated 2,087,000 to 2,165,000 of California’s U.S.-born white male residents with full U.S. citizenship do not have the financial means to pay for healthcare and are therefore without doctors, dentists and access to medicine, therapy and treatment, and are therefore subject to $800 per adult or $400 per child state penalties imposed on them for not having insurance.
According to Newsom’s office, white men between the ages of 18 and 65 are among the most privileged members of society and therefore are not eligible for social welfare in the way that protected minorities such as Hispanics, African Americans and Native Americans are. White men who are both American citizens and residents of California who did not secure health insurance as is required by statute and are being rightfully penalized for their failure to secure health insurance in a timely manner brought that punishment upon themselves by their deliberate decisions to disobey the law and not purchase health coverage, according to the governor’s office. The health coverage mandate had been well-publicized, according to the governor’s office.
Rapper 50 Cent took issue with California for its expenditure of taxpayer money to fund a $2.6 billion healthcare program for illegal aliens.
In an Instagram Post that was headed by a photo of Newsom with a caption stating, “California Becomes First US State to Offer Health Insurance to All Illegal Migrants,” 50 Cent, the professional name of Curtis James Jackson III, stated, “I don’t understand this. This it going to cost 2.6 billion dollars for taxpayers. They don’t even give veterans health insurance. [MSNBC anchor Ari Melber] call my phone now, help me understand this shit. What the fuck?”
According to a reliable internet source providing health insurance information, roughly half of the undocumented immigrant population in the United States has no health insurance. In comparison, 8 percent of U.S.-born citizens are uninsured or underinsured with regard to health coverage.
By Richard Hernandez