(Associated Press) - California, flush with cash from an expanding economy, would eventually spend $1 billion a year to provide health care to immigrants living in the state illegally under a proposal announced Wednesday by Democratic lawmakers.
The proposal would eliminate legal residency requirements in California’s Medicaid program, known as Medi-Cal, as the state has already done for young people up to age 19.
It’s part of $4.3 billion in new spending proposed by Assemblyman Phil Ting, a San Francisco Democrat who leads the budget committee. Assembly Democrats also want to expand a tax credit for the working poor, boost preschool and child care, and increase college scholarships to reduce reliance on student loans.
They also would commit $3.2 billion more than required to state budget reserves.
While federal funds cover at least half – and as much 95 percent – of the cost for citizens and legal U.S. residents on Medi-Cal, the state would have to pick up the cost on its own for people living here illegally.
Expanding access to health care has been a contentious issue for California lawmakers, who targeted last year by protests from liberal activists who want the Legislature to provide state-funded coverage to everyone, regardless of immigration status.
A measure promoting that principle was sidelined when Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said it lacked specifics, including a plan for the $400 billion it would cost.