A California lawmaker has pledged to re-introduce a bill that would allow adults who live in the state illegally to receive medical care paid for by the government.
State Assembly member Joaquin Arambula, a Democrat and a doctor, announced the plans Monday as the legislature convened at the state capitol, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Should the bill advance, California would become the first state to extend Medicaid coverage regardless of immigration status. State projections for last year’s bill found that 1.8 million people in California are uninsured and reside there illegally; roughly 1.2 million would qualify for Medi-Cal, the name of the state’s Medicaid program.
The legislation is being introduced ahead of a new governor entering office. Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom initially had vowed to seek a single-payer healthcare system for the state, but tamped down his rhetoric later in the campaign, focusing instead on extending coverage to the uninsured. Single-payer systems refer to one source of payment for all medical services, usually the government.
Arambula introduced a similar bill last session alongside state Sen. Ricardo Lara, but the final versions would have covered fewer people than they had both originally envisioned. They were narrowed to young adults, between the ages of 19 and 26, and to immigrants over the age of 65. Outgoing Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown refused to fund the provisions in the state budget.
The latest plan would carry an estimated price tag of $3 billion a year, according to California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office, which would be paid for by the state’s general fund. Medicaid is otherwise jointly funded by the state and federal governments.
Critics have questioned whether people in the U.S. illegally would move to California to receive healthcare benefits, which would increase state spending.
Under a Medicaid provision in Obamacare, anyone making less than roughly $17,000 a year qualifies for coverage. That provision, however, doesn’t apply to people who are in the U.S. illegally. Emergency departments provide medical care for people regardless of immigration status.
California has already extended Medicaid to people younger than 19 who are in the state illegally.