Gavin Newsom’s new budget proposal extends healthcare to the undocumented

Last April, the UC Berkeley Labor Center and UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research released a report estimating that 3.2 million Californians would be left without health coverage by 2022. Separate research from the Public Policy Institute of California found that nearly half of This number were immigrants, and of them a considerable number were undocumented. In fact, Labor Center results suggest that 1.27 million undocumented immigrants in California lack health coverage.

Three million is a big number, but it is far less than it was uninsured in recent times – and it is a figure that is likely to fall significantly in the coming years, if Governor Newsoms just released the budget plan for 2022-2023 becomes a reality, and the state expands MediCal coverage to include undocumented adults of all ages.

Newsom’s proposal, which has been something of a holy grail for health reformists and advocates for immigration rights in the state for years, is the latest in a long line of reforms that California has embraced over the past decade as its political leaders have moved assertively. to close as many holes in his health umbrella as possible. The result has been that the share of uninsured in the state has gone from more than 20 percent of its population, or 7 million people under the age of 65, a decade ago – putting it in competition with states like Texas for the highest percentage. of the population lacks coverage – to just over 8 percent today.

In the wake of the Affordable Care Act, the state set up its Covered California insurance exchange and then pumped millions of dollars into public relations campaigns designed to get the message out to low-income and minority communities that health care was now affordable and within reach millions of previously uninsured individuals and families. In 2016, the state set about expanding MediCal to undocumented children under the age of 18 – a reform that FB would not pay for. In 2019, lawmakers raised the age limit to include undocumented residents under the age of 26. The reform started in 2020, just before the pandemic took root. Last summer, Newsom signed a bill that made low-income Californians 50 years and older eligible for MediCal; from one day to the next, about 235,000 undocumented residents in that age group qualified for health care.

Now that California is in the luxury position with a budget surplus of many tens of billions of dollars, Newsom proposes to expand MediCal, beginning in 2024, to cover low-income undocumented immigrants. all ages, as well as hundreds of thousands of other low-income residents, under the age of 65, throughout the state. True, it is not quite the system of universal single-pay healthcare that supporters of Assemblyman Ash Kalra’s AB 1,400 envision, a massive $ 400 billion proposal currently being discussed in Assembly committees; but it is a major step towards universal health coverage. And given the brand shock associated with converting a fragmented private healthcare system into a single-payer system, Newsom’s plan, one of many ambitious proposals contained in his $ 286 billion budget, is almost certainly more likely to survive battles in the Legislature and that get more public support over the coming year than the single payer proposal is. If it survives, and if he wins re-election, he will then have four years to seal the deal and effectively move the state toward universal coverage, albeit of a patchwork quilt type rather than a single-payer system.


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