Democratic legislators are advancing a bill that aims to provide free health care to low-income undocumented seniors — an idea that they floated earlier this year, but which failed to make it into the state budget because of concerns over its cost.
The bill, authored by Los Angeles Democrat Maria Elena Durazo, would expand Medi-Cal—the state’s version of federal Medicaid for low-income residents — to undocumented immigrants age 65 and older starting next July. That would inch the state closer to providing health care to all immigrants in the state illegally.
It faces a floor vote in the Assembly and then, if it passes, would return to the Senate for a final vote before landing on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk. Legislators are in a mad scramble this week to wrap up all bills by the Friday deadline…
If California were to expand Medi-Cal to cover undocumented seniors, it would make it even harder for those on the program to find a doctor and get care, said Sally Pipes, president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute, a free market think tank based in the Bay Area. In addition, she predicted that any expansion would lead the state to raise taxes to cover the cost, all while boosting the incentive for people to migrate illegally.
Pipes sees this as an incremental work-around in response to failed Democratic attempts to get state coverage for all undocumented immigrants. A bill to expand coverage to all undocumented immigrants stalled earlier this year.
“It’s not fair to those who are taxpayers and those who are middle- and lower-income and have a lot of stress in paying for healthcare. Why would they need to pay more to subsidize these people?” Pipes said. “They (legislators) didn’t get the $3.4 billion to cover all of them. So this is a stepping stone in getting there.”