Democrats want to extend health coverage to undocumented immigrants

Health for allCalifornia’s Democratic legislators want to extend health benefits to undocumented young adults, the continuation of an effort that ushered children without legal status into the state’s publicly funded health care system last year.

It is unclear when the program would start or how much the state would spend if the proposal, which could cost up to $85 million a year, is approved by Gov. Jerry Brown. Lawmakers are working out details ahead of their June 15 deadline for passing a new budget.

The plan would provide full-scope coverage for 19-to-26-year-olds who qualify for Medi-Cal, the state’s name for Medicaid. Currently, the federally funded program covers only emergency visits and prenatal care for undocumented residents. Under the proposal, revenue from taxes on tobacco products would absorb expenses for all other coverage.

Democratic Sen. Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens has been one of the strongest voices for expanded care. In 2015, he pushed for coverage for all adults. That proposal was changed to admit only undocumented children; it took effect last year. This year, he said in a recent video message to supporters, “We are going to make the final push to ensure we capture our young adults.”

Supporters’ ultimate goal is to include all undocumented adults, said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a health care consumer group backing the proposal.

“We believe without coverage people are sicker, die younger and are one emergency away from financial ruin. It has consequences for their families and their communities — both health and financial consequences,” he said.

The plan would mean that undocumented children currently in the program would not age out at 19, putting low-income undocumented immigrants on a par with those allowed to stay on their parents’ insurance under Obamacare until they are 26.

Sen. John Moorlach, a Costa Mesa Republican, opposes an extension of benefits. One reason is financial. California doesn’t have “a balance sheet we can brag about,” he said, citing the state’s debt load, among other reasons.

Secondly, he disapproves of illegal immigration. Moorlach migrated to the U.S. legally as a child with his family from the Netherlands.

“I’m kind of offended that we feel an obligation to pay for expenses for those who did not come through the front door,” he said. “I certainly have compassion and want to help people in need, but I’m having difficulty, as a legal immigrant, because we are already in such bad fiscal shape.”

Advocates argue that undocumented immigrants help propel California’s economy with their labor and the taxes they pay, and that they cost the state money when they don’t work because of illness or when they end up in the emergency room.

“Health care is a right,” said Ronald Coleman, director of government affairs for the California Immigrant Policy Center, an advocacy organization and supporter of the proposal. “These are folks we are investing in through the California Dream Act and through other programs our state offers, and it makes sense to invest in our future, which our young adults will be.”

Estimates vary for how many people this expansion of Medi-Cal would serve and what the costs would be. Each house of the Legislature has passed its own version of the proposal, with differing figures attached.

The Assembly allocated $54 million a year to cover an unspecified number of additional enrollees, with a July 2017 start date. The Senate proposed $63.1 million in the first year, beginning in 2018, and $85 million annually thereafter, also without specific population numbers.

Coleman’s center, which is working closely with lawmakers on the issue, estimates about 80,000 new people would be eligible, and the cost would be around $54 million a year. That assumes the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program continues, because it provides access to Medi-Cal. If  DACA were eliminated, the figures would increase to about 100,000 eligible people and about $84 million in annual costs, Coleman said.

The governor’s proposed budget does not include the proposed expansion or any money for it.

Kevin, a 19-year-old Angeleno who asked that only his first name be used because he lives in California illegally, wants the proposal to succeed. He has been working for more than a year to distribute information about Medi-Cal children’s coverage to immigrant families.

He meets all but one of the requirements for DACA: He was not in the country before June 15, 2007. He arrived in the U.S. in 2011 at age 14 from Guatemala, on a visa that later expired. He graduated high school, has no criminal record and is now majoring in Business Administration at California State University, Los Angeles.

“There’s this misunderstanding that young people are healthy,” said Kevin, who suffers from eczema. He worries about the chronic condition flaring up. “When it gets worse, it doesn’t let me do anything with my hands.”

He is enrolled in a county health insurance program for low-income residents, but he can’t afford a dermatologist. He can barely pay for the prescription lotion he uses for the eczema and sometimes goes without it.

“We are trying to have a better economic standard, and we are like the building blocks of this society,” he said. “Having health insurance will allow us to focus more on school and do our regular day-to-day activities. A healthier society works better for everyone.”

If lawmakers can now agree on details, a consensus proposal will go to the full Legislature for approval. The deadline for that is June 12.

This piece was originally published by


  1. Mr. Pickle says

    NO. The California Taxpayer is fed up with this kind of international welfare. With the new fuel tax disaster, and this potential, my pocketbook continues to get drained by programs put into place by people that have NO clue what is going on in the real world………
    Throw out those that VOTE for this kind welfare that our State can ill afford.

    • My wife and I are actively looking at homes outside of California. I’ve been here since 1961, but California will not change for the better until it collapses.

    • askeptic says

      “Throw out” my “butt”…..string them up!

  2. The state is almost to the breaking point financially yet the insane morons in the democreep party, you know the one with ONLY starry eyed millenials. Continues to think that stolen taxpayer money grows on trees and the magic fairy god mother will tap rendon, de leon, and the rest of the mental midgets on the head and pronounce them all wonderful caring people! They all have their heads so far up their fannies it is beyond imagination!!

  3. the people who live in Ca—do not pay your state tax and move the hell away now

  4. I thought that, under the rule of law, criminal behavior is not to be rewarded.

  5. Undocumented immigrant IS NOT the correct term. Illegal alien is the correct term. They should face the same type of penalties in our country that they do for the same offense in their country. Mostly jail, with rice and beans to eat and water to drink. Six months to a year of hard labor and returned to their country. For the politicians, they are breaking Federal Law and inciting rebellion. Tent city in the middle of the Mojave Desert, hot pink jump suits; rice. beans and water; five years minimum hard labor; no TV, no AC. Start with Gov. Brown, include every member of the legislature who has voted for this crap: every mayor, city councilman, and county representative who advocates this idiotic nonsense. Let us make California great again!

  6. retiredxlr8r says

    “Health Care” IS NOT A RIGHT!
    Is there no responsibility? Nobody does for themselves anymore, it’s all about what can we get out of the dumb tax payers.
    Or are the loons just trying to gain more control over the masses?
    The commie, bed-wetting liberals in Sacramento will spend money like a drunk, after all, it’s not their money, it is yours and mine!!!
    Crooks, the whole lot of the them and we need to clean house in California by vote or by physical means if it is necessary, it is up to Gov. Brown and his brown shirts, however they want to handle it.

  7. Gary Von Neida says

    Here is an idea. Put this up for a vote and all in favor can pay the toll for an illegal, or, Their entire tribe.They ( the feel good about themselves liberals) should not be able to FORCE the rest of Us to become ENABLERS of such illegal behavior.

  8. Gary Von Neida says

    Here is an idea. Put this up for a vote and all in favor can pay the toll for an illegal, or, Their entire tribe.They ( the feel good about themselves liberals) should not be able to FORCE the rest of Us to become ENABLERS of such illegal is total b.S— to dis allow My comment; thus I request You never send another “E” to me.

  9. Donald J. says

    The California Government (I use that term loosely) Never does anything for the general public unless it benefits them personally.

  10. No! VOTE VOTE VOTE THESE MORONS OUT OF OFFICE! Until the majority of California’s elected leaders are Republican or Independent this state that I was born in and live will be completely destroyed. Wretched Jerry Brown, Nancy Pelosi, Gavin Newsom, Eric Swalwell, Maxine Waters, Diane Feinstein, Kamala Harris etc. all need to be out!! And never heard from again. We must take to our neighborhoods and get out the vote. Most importantly we need to let the GOP know that they can run candidates in this state and they will be supported and they can win! VOTE VOTE VOTE THEM OUT OF OFFICE!!!!!!

  11. askeptic says

    Why not just issue Covered California cards to every single person in Mexico, and Central America?
    If there was no CA Progressive-Democrat Party, there’d by no place for fools and morons to go.

  12. Joe Broe says

    I have said this before. There is a reason why Sac is in a rush to push this through. Think about the same-sex marraige Gavin pushed through. It went to the SCOTUS under the 14th Amendment equal protecton clause. Now think public education. Illegals are allowed access under 14th amendment. This is an opportunity for dems in California to push a single payer system, available to all, nationally.

    It’s disgusting what they are doing and there is no recourse.

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