Sacramento, Calif.: California on Thursday became the first state to guarantee free health care for all low-income immigrants living in the country illegally, a move that will provide coverage for an additional 764,000 people at an eventual cost of about $2.7 billion a year.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a $307.9 billion operating budget that pledges to make all low-income adults eligible for the state’s Medicaid program by 2024 regardless of their immigration status. It’s a long-sought victory for health care and immigration activists, who have been asking for the change for more than a decade.
Nationwide, federal and state governments join together to give free health care to low-income adults and children through Medicaid. But the federal government won’t pay for people who are living in the country illegally. Some states, including California, have used their own tax dollars to cover a portion of health care expenses for some low-income immigrants. Now, California wants to be the first to do that for everyone.
About 92 percent of Californians currently have some form of health insurance, putting the state in the middle of the pack nationally. But that will change once this budget is fully implemented, as adults living in the country illegally makeup one of the largest groups of people without insurance in the state.