California Beckons All Low-Income Illegal Aliens with Free Health Care
FAIR Take | January 2024
California has become the first state in the nation to provide comprehensive, taxpayer-funded health care for all low-income illegal aliens. As of January 1, all low-income illegal aliens, regardless of age, will qualify for Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program. It Is estimated that an additional 764,000 illegal aliens could be added to the rolls of the state’s program, costing California taxpayers an extra $3.1 billion annually.
California’s policy to provide health care benefits to all low-income illegal aliens advanced in a piecemeal fashion. In 2015, then-Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill making illegal aliens under the age of eighteen eligible for Medi-Cal. Next, Governor Gavin Newsom, in 2019, signed into law a bill expanding Medi-Cal access to illegal aliens between the ages of nineteen to twenty-five. Then in 2021, low-income illegal aliens over fifty became eligible for the Medi-Cal program.
Finally, Medi-Cal eligibility was expanded again in 2022, when the state, flush with federal monies from COVID, had its largest budget surplus. At that time, Governor Newsom and lawmakers agreed to provide health care to all low-income illegal aliens with the expansion going into effect on January 1, 2024.
Now, however, California no longer has a budget surplus but instead is facing a $68 billion deficit and the burden for providing this expansive health care program to all low-income illegal aliens will fall squarely on California taxpayers alone. While most low-income individuals are eligible for Medicaid, a jointly funded program between the federal and state governments, under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, illegal aliens are generally barred from receiving federally-funded means-tested public benefits like Medicaid. Thus the cost falls solely on the state.
According to FAIR’s most recent cost study, illegal aliens in California already cost state taxpayers $30.9 billion annually. Instead of nixing the health care expansion and responsibly addressing California’s budget shortfall, Governor Newsom continues to put out the welcome mat for illegal aliens. In fact, his solution to close the deficit is to dip into the state’s rainy day fund. He has also proposed cuts to housing and climate programs as well as public schools (although the public school cuts will be funded using a special savings account approved by voters for the public schools) to fund health care for all low-income illegal aliens.
Not all California legislators, however, agree with Governor Newsom’s decision. Assemblyman Bill Essayli (R-Riverside) recently introduced Assembly Bill (AB) 1783, which would remove all taxpayer funding for health care for illegal aliens from the budget saying, “It is unconscionable to spend billions of taxpayer dollars to give universal healthcare to illegal immigrants when our own citizens cannot afford their own healthcare on top of historic inflation and the highest cost of living in the nation.” He continued, “Law-abiding immigrants like my parents are part of the great fabric of our state and nation. We cannot incentivize illegal immigration with free healthcare. We must take care of our own citizens before trying to care for the citizens of other nations.”
Providing health care benefits to all low-income illegal aliens is sure to act as a magnet for more illegal aliens to come to the United States, and to California in particular. In fiscal year 2023, which ended on September 30, there were 230,941 encounters in the San Diego Sector, the highest level in two decades.
Apparently, most Californians aren’t concerned with providing benefits to illegal aliens. According to a 2021 survey conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California, 66 percent of Californians approved of providing health care to illegal aliens. This is a 12 percent increase from 2015. Of Democrats, 82 percent overwhelmingly favor giving health care to illegal aliens, while nearly 60 percent of independents believe and just 20 percent of republicans responded in favor of it.