California just became the first state to offer taxpayer-funded healthcare to all illegal immigrants. As of Jan. 1, every adult in California, regardless of age or legal status, can apply for Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program.
Democrats claim the law is about human rights. But taxpayer dollars are finite — something California should understand as it grapples with a budget deficit that is projected by the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office to be $68 billion. Enrolling even more people in Medi-Cal will make it harder for the program’s legacy beneficiaries to secure care.
California has been steadily enrolling more illegal immigrants in Medi-Cal. In 2016, the Golden State allowed undocumented children to sign up. Then, illegal immigrants aged 19-25 and later those 50 and up became eligible. And now, the 700,000 illegal immigrants between the ages of 26 and 49 qualify. The total annual cost of providing Medi-Cal to all illegal immigrants is $4 billion. And that doesn’t consider the potential cost of undocumented people from other states coming to California to claim this new state-funded benefit.
Federal funds cannot be used to provide Medicaid to illegal immigrants — nor can they subsidize coverage for the undocumented through Obamacare’s exchanges. But as of December, 11 states and Washington, D.C., offer at least some illegal immigrants taxpayer-funded health coverage. More than 1 million low-income illegal immigrants have signed up for these programs, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Democrats celebrate such changes. “Through this expansion,” Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) said, “we’re making sure families and communities across California are healthier, stronger, and able to get the care they need when they need it.”
But spending more tax dollars on noncitizens is fiscally irresponsible. Medi-Cal already covers around one in three Californians. This year, the program consumed $152 billion. Most of that came from the federal government; state taxpayers covered roughly $37 billion of that figure. Medi-Cal is the second-largest line item in the budget, after public education. A dollar spent on Medi-Cal is a dollar that can’t be spent on other important state priorities.
Besides, enrolling more undocumented immigrants will only make it harder for Medi-Cal’s legacy beneficiaries, including disabled people and pregnant women, to access timely care. According to research from the California Health Care Foundation, adults in Medi-Cal are more likely than those with employer-sponsored insurance to report no usual source of care, to be told that a doctor won’t accept their insurance, and to have trouble finding a specialist.
Medicaid was created nearly 60 years ago to provide for people who can’t provide for themselves. It’s a perversion of that intent to expand the program to people who have broken the law to get here.