California Bill Would Expand Taxpayer-Funded Health Coverage for Illegal Aliens
By David Jaroslav | May 31, 2018
California's state legislature continues regularly passing bills granting new benefits to illegal aliens at the expense of American citizens and legal immigrants. Recently, Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) introduced Senate Bill (SB) 974, to pay for illegal aliens' health care costs through the state's "Medi-Cal" program. Since illegal aliens are ineligible for federal Medicaid funds, if Senator Lara's bill passes, which looks likely, California taxpayers would have to foot the bill for providing illegal alien healthcare in its entirety.
Medi-Cal is what California calls its state-funded health-care assistance program for "low-income adults," and is what most states refer to as Medicaid (although it is broader and more generous than in most states). Like Medicaid, it receives matching federal funds. Recipients are eligible for Medi-Cal coverage based on income if they make less than 138% of the federal poverty level, which amounts to $33,534 for a family of four. Recipients are also eligible regardless of income if they are: 65 or older, blind, disabled, under 21, pregnant, in a skilled nursing or intermediate care home, on refugee status for a limited time, a "parent or caretaker relative", or have been screened for breast and/or cervical cancer.
Originally, the bill would have applied the same eligibility criteria for Medi-Cal coverage to all illegal aliens that it does for citizens and legal immigrants. According to the California Legislative Analyst Office, the bill would have cost Californians $3 billion each year. On April 4, the Senate Health Committee passed this bill along party lines.
The Senate Appropriations Committee amended the bill to "limit" coverage to illegal aliens under the age of 19 or over the age of 65, apparently in part due to cost concerns by Governor Jerry Brown (D). Although called "scaled-back" by some, the amended bill still extends taxpayer-funded health coverage benefits to at least 114,000 new recipients at a cost of at least an additional $250 million to taxpayers. The committee then passed the bill on another party-line vote, 5-2. The bill is now on the Senate floor and could receive a final vote soon.
Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno) sponsored a companion bill, Assembly Bill (AB) 2965, which passed the Health Committee on April 18 and Appropriations Committee on May 25. It differs from the Senate version because it provides coverage to illegal aliens under 26 but does not cover those over 65. It, too, could now be voted on at any time.
Overcoming Governor Brown's objection to the earlier and broader versions of the bill was "a major hurdle" given its hefty price tag and the Governor's desire to preserve a budget surplus as part of his "legacy." He has not yet taken a public position on the newly-amended Senate and Assembly versions.
California continues to raise taxes to new heights and spend money it doesn't really have, especially on benefits for illegal aliens. And unfortunately, similar ideas appear to be spreading to other states.