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California taxpayers to pay $1.3 billion to enroll more illegal immigrants in Medicaid

The plan proposed by California Democrats guarantees that low-income illegal immigrants older than age 50 will receive health insurance. Coverage would take effect in 2022 and cost taxpayers $1.3 billion per year.

Updated: July 5, 2021 - 10:17pm

California taxpayers will soon pay more in taxes to enroll more illegal immigrants in Medicaid, a plan that was part of a recently approved state budget. Younger illegal immigrants are already enrolled in Medicaid, SNAP and other federally funded programs.

The plan proposed by California Democrats guarantees that low-income illegal immigrants older than age 50 will receive health insurance. Coverage would take effect in 2022 and cost taxpayers $1.3 billion per year.

It follows a $213 billion taxpayer-funded plan proposed in 2019 to allow low-income illegal immigrants between the ages of 19 and 25 to enroll in Medicaid. Democrats then estimated that adding 90,000 people to Medicaid would cost taxpayers $98 million per year.

Adding illegal immigrants older than age 50 was the next step this year, they argued, which was included in the state's two-year budget proposal. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to sign it Thursday, the beginning of the fiscal year.

Republican state Sen. Jim Nielsen opposes the plan, arguing, "Individuals who are illegally in California now will receive [health] benefits equal to a citizen of California. All they had to do is just simply be here, and whether they were of legal status or not makes no difference.

"I would argue that is at the expense of Californians who are legally here and have been here their whole life. Also, it inflates the budget considerably, and it becomes a part of the base budget, meaning the ongoing budget into the future. Every year, we have to build into the base expenditure, the extension of the people served."

Meanwhile, nearly 3.2 million Californians remain uninsured, accounting for 9.5% of the state's population, according to data from the University of California–Berkeley Labor Center.

When asked by reporters about the measure, Newsom's spokesperson said, "Governor Newsom has made it clear that he supports health care for all regardless of immigration status and since taking office, has advanced this goal while maintaining fiscal responsibility for future years.

"Building on the state's expansion of Medi-Cal coverage to all Californians up to age 26 and additional Covered California premium assistance to middle-income individuals, the governor in May proposed tackling the long-standing structural barriers in health care for low-income older undocumented persons as the state makes progress toward universal coverage."

The budget also eliminates the asset test for those applying for Medicaid. Prior to this year's budget, individuals applying for Medicaid had to prove they were financially eligible for the program.

Previously, Medicaid recipients could not have assets that exceed $2,000 for a single person or $3,000 for a couple, including cash or some jewelry. The removal of the asset test enables 17,802 more people to enroll in Medicaid who were otherwise prevented from doing so before. Adding more than 17,802 people will cost an additional $220 million per year, the California Department of Health Care Services said.

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