California Governor Gavin Newsom’s first budget, estimated at $213 billion, has set aside nearly $100 million for illegal immigrants residing in the state, ages 19-25, to receive Medi-Cal coverage.
The Medi-Cal extension will make California the first state to provide health insurance for illegal aliens.
Supporters of the move, such as president and CEO of the non-profit organization California Health Care Foundation, Sandra R. Hernandez, MD, said it was only one small step in a vast progressive movement to provide health care to all Californians.
“While today is surely a moment worth celebrating, we must also acknowledge the work ahead,” said Hernandez in a statement. “We must find a way to cover all Californians, including the low-income undocumented adults and seniors who remain ineligible for Medi-Cal.”
Jay Obernolte (R-Big Bear Lake), California Assemblyman for the 33rd District and vice chair of the Budget Committee told The Epoch Times that he’s not in favor of using Californians’ tax dollars in this way.
“The big problem with the expansion of Medi-Cal is that we are already failing in our commitment to the Californians who are on that program,” he said.
“I represent a fairly rural part of the state. [Many of] my constituents are unable to access Medi-Cal when they are ill. So many physicians in my district are unable to accept the low reimbursement rates that are provided under Medi-Cal. You need a very large practice as a doctor to accept those reimbursement rates, and I don’t have many physicians [in my district] that are able to. When my constituents get sick, even though technically they’re covered, they can’t see a doctor.”
Obernolte argued that the state has an obligation to fix these problems before addressing healthcare for illegal aliens.
“We are trying to do what’s best, from a public policy standpoint for the people who already live here,” he said.
While Obernolte voiced his disagreement with the legislature’s passage of this provision, he did point out that many liberal lawmakers did not get everything they wanted.
“They were seeking to expand Medi-Cal eligibility to senior undocumented immigrants and that is something that the governor did not agree to,” he said.
When asked how his constituents felt about the budget allocations, Obernolte said they were overwhelmingly opposed to it.
“People [are] concerned about the overall costs, and [there are] constituents that are unconvinced that providing services to people who aren’t here legally is a good use of taxpayer resources,” he said.
The state budget, which also includes an individual mandate on health insurance, would obligate residents in the state to purchase health insurance. This measure was enacted as a means of countering Congressional Republicans’ removal of the national individual mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
Revenue from this statewide mandate would be used to fund insurance premium subsidies for middle income people, including illegal aliens residing in the state.
State Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) also weighed in on the controversial budget proposal.
“I am an immigrant,” he told The Epoch Times. “I came here in 1960 from the Netherlands. I am one of those legislators that tend to get a little offended when those that have not come through the front door are receiving benefits from the state.”
Moorlach further weighed in on the costs to the taxpayer as a result of this provision being enacted.
“The federal government has failed miserably at controlling our borders and now we have [these individuals] here and they are in our hospitals, in our emergency rooms. We have an industry that has been [weighed down] by subsidizing undocumented individuals. I understand maybe helping out a hospital association, but I think it’s a little offensive to most citizens that this is the approach that the governor wants to take.”
When asked about whether this allocation of Medi-Cal would attract more illegal immigration, Moorlach believed it possibly would.
“The question is Governor Newsom doing this out of exasperation or is he doing this [to try and] be hospitable to anybody that walks through the door? I tend to think it’s the latter, and that’s why it’s frustrating to my constituents. We’ve been getting a lot of calls from constituents arguing against medical benefits for undocumented immigrants.”
When asked as to whether this provision would add to the debt, Senator Moorlach pointed out that Betty Yee, the state’s Controller, highlighted the significant increase in the state deficit for this fiscal year.
“In the middle of the budget conference committee meetings, the State Controller, Betty Yee, released the comprehensive annual financial report for the year end of June 30th 2018. It was finally completed in the middle of June, a year later. [The report] will show you that the retiree medical liability for health benefits for state employees has increased by $44 billion and our unrestricted net deficit went up from $169.5 billion to $213 billion. The state not only this last week approved the largest budget in its history, but it’s also been notified that its unrestricted net deficit is also the largest in its history as well,” he said.
Moorlach also shed light on the statewide individual mandate and as to whether the penalty citizens will have to pay for not being insured will go towards paying for illegal aliens’ insurance.
“Ironically that seems to be the case,” he responded.
Senator Moorlach suggested that instead of being obstructive towards D.C., Sacramento should try to find the middle ground on this issue. “I think what the Governor should really be focused on is not just being antagonistic to the President, but maybe sending a blue-ribbon committee to work with D.C. to figure out how to get a pathway to citizenship.”
Governor Newsom’s budget was passed on June 13, sending it to Newsom for his signature. The Senate vote was 29-11, and the Assembly approved it 60-15, largely along party lines.