California was poised Monday to become the first state to provide health care coverage to young, low-income adults living in the country illegally after legislative leaders provided a thumbs-up to Gov. Gavin Newsom's $98 million plan targeting almost 100,000 low-income adults.
The full Legislature still must sign off on the plan that would make such immigrants ages 19 to 25 eligible for Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program. The deal was a win for Newsom, who rejected as too expensive a state Senate plan to include adults 65 and older living in the state illegally.
The California Immigrant Policy Center called the program a "clear step forward" but lamented the decision to block the elderly from the plan.
"The exclusion of undocumented elders from the same health care their U.S. citizen neighbors are eligible for means beloved community members will suffer and die from treatable conditions," the advocacy group said in a statement.
Anthony Wright, executive director of the advocacy group Health Access, said further expansion of the program could come in the future.
"We will continue to pursue steps towards the Governor’s & Legislature’s shared goal of getting to universal coverage in the next few years," Wright posted on Twitter.
The deal, which will become effective in January is part of a larger effort to ensure everyone in the state has access to health insurance. Lawmakers have until Saturday to approve the budget or face losing their pay.
The proposal also makes California the first state to subsidize insurance for middle-income families. A family of four earning as much as six times the federal poverty level – or more than $150,000 a year – would be eligible for $100 a month from the government to help pay for insurance. Newsom had initially balked at the subsidy but ultimately relented.
“California believes that health is a fundamental right,” said state Sen. Holly Mitchell, a Los Angeles Democrat who led the budget negotiations.
But to pay for part of it, the state will begin taxing people who don’t have health insurance. The plan is similar to a part of President Barack Obama’s health care law that Republicans in Congress eliminated as part of the 2017 overhaul to the tax code.
Not that the state is desperate for cash: California is projected to have a surplus of more than $20 billion, the largest in 20 years.
Some Republicans on the legislative committee negotiating the budget voted against the health care proposal, noting that some Californians living in the U.S. legally have no access to health care.
Andrew Clark, who a week ago began work as director of rapid response for the Trump 2020 campaign, was quick to complain on Twitter.
"California Democrats' new $100 million plan in the works will start providing health care to illegal immigrants...and pay for it by taxing people (legal residents!) who don't have health insurance," Clark tweeted.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: California to become the first state to extend health benefits to some who live in USA illegally