July 11, 2019

In a first, California opens Medicaid to undocumented young adults

Daily Briefing

    California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Tuesday signed into law a state budget bill (SB 104) that will make California the first state in the country to open Medicaid eligibility in full to undocumented immigrants up through age 25.

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    Bill details

    California currently covers emergency and pregnancy care under its Medicaid program for all undocumented residents in the state. The state also offers Medicaid coverage for undocumented children up to age 18.

    However, under the new budget measure, the state expects to expand Medicaid coverage to nearly 90,000 undocumented adults ages 19 to 25 with incomes low enough to qualify for the program.

    State officials estimate the proposal will cost California approximately $98 million annually.

    The state will pay for the expanded Medicaid coverage in part by taxing uninsured state residents, which effectively represents a reinstatement of the ACA's individual mandate penalty in the state.

    Reaction

    Supporters of the move to expand Medicaid eligibility to undocumented young adults said it has the potential to improve immigrants' health by helping them get needed care, the Associated Press reports.

    However, Republican lawmakers who oppose the bill say government money should not be directed toward undocumented immigrants, and instead should be used for California residents who live in the state legally. State Sen. Jeff Stone (R) at a hearing on the topic said, "We are going to be a magnet that is going to further attract people to a state of California that's willing to write a blank check to anyone that wants to come here" (Associated Press, 7/10; Allyn, NPR, 7/10; Feder Ostrov/Ibarra, California Healthline, 7/9).

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