California lawmakers on Thursday passed a budget that would make the state the first to extend health care coverage to some undocumented young adults through its Medicaid program.
The new health care benefits, included in a record $214.8 billion budget, would provide subsidies for some adults living in the country illegally. It’s expected to cover some 90,000 low-income residents between the ages of 19 and 25 and to cost the state $98 million in its initial year. The coverage would take effect in 2020, according to the legislation.
Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who proposed the effort as part of a larger health care package, has signaled that he will sign the new spending plan. The Democrats dominating the Golden State’s Legislature are largely in favor of expanding Medicaid.
“What a luxury we have, to get to stand here and argue over where we should put our savings, how we should spend some of the additional money we have to support struggling Californians,” said state Sen. Toni Atkins, a Democrat from San Diego.
The move comes as the Trump administration is cracking down on undocumented immigrants, particularly at the southern border — and as the Supreme Court is poised to take up a case concerning President Donald Trump’s moves to undo Obama-era protections for young adults brought to the US as children. But it is also a time when Democrats are seeking a pathway to get more uninsured people covered.
The Golden State led the way in this area by covering undocumented children. Some 240,000 children are in the program, which began in 2016.
“Undocumented young adults should not have to worry about losing their health coverage when they turn 19,” Newsom said in January, describing the effort as “another major step toward universal coverage.”
The state Senate had hoped to cover undocumented seniors as well, but that provision did not make it into the budget deal due to concerns about its cost.
Also as part of Newsom’s proposal, the state will provide enhanced premium subsidies to help middle-class residents buy coverage on the Affordable Care Act exchange. Families of four earning up to about $150,000 can get around $100 a month to buy policies on the Covered California marketplace, starting next year.
It will be paid for by restoring a state version of the individual mandate, which requires residents to have health insurance or pay a penalty. Republicans in Congress effectively eliminated the federal mandate as part of the 2017 tax cut law.
California lawmakers are expected to finalize budget details as they vote on bills next week.