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California Bill Might Extend Medicaid Coverage to All Adults — Including Illegal Immigrants

— May 21, 2018

An ambitious California bill that would extend Medicaid coverage to all adults is taking the endeavor a step further, promising to insure illegal immigrants as well.

According to POLITICO, the measure builds on Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2015 decision to offer health insurance to all California children, regardless of immigration status. The latest announcement, writes columnist Victoria Colliver, is among the most daring examples of ‘blue-state Democrats thumbing their nose at President Donald Trump as they pursue diametrically opposed policies.’

“California has never waited for the federal government, or for a political climate, to be able to take leadership on a whole host of issues,” said state Sen. Ricardo Lara, sponsor of the chamber’s Medicaid extension bill.

The bold announcement is liable to enrage President Trump, who’s been accused of ‘waging war’ on the nation’s most populous state, attempting to break down its institutions and reverse legislation on sanctuary cities. In March, Gov. Jerry Brown told reports that the administration and its attorney general, Jeff Sessions, were flouting facts and maligning California immigration policy to score political points.

Pushing forward with Medicaid reform, says Colliver, may prove a tough gamble.

Allowing undocumented immigrants to avail Medicaid could cost the state close to $3 billion per year. And others, writes POLITICO, worry that boosting the well-being of illegal aliens could draw in others from across state lines and international borders.

Trump; image by Gage Skidmore, via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, no changes.
President Donald Trump has taken a harsh stance against immigration, legal and not. Since assuming office, the commander-in-chief has frequently criticized California’s liberal treatment of undocumented immigrants; image by Gage Skidmore, via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, no changes.

Political analyst and Sonoma State University professor David McCuan claims the bill will only energize card-carrying Republicans and sympathetic independents.

“It would give Republicans a relevance in California they would never have before,” said McCuan.

Gov. Brown hasn’t yet committed to the plan. If it passes, he’ll have to either sign it into law or veto it by September 30th. The date falls precariously close to the upcoming midterm elections, ensuring that the bill’s passage would prompt mass debate on the state’s stance toward illegal immigrants.

“It seems astounding to me that California could consider an expansion like this at this particular moment,” said Paul Ginsburg, director of the University of California (Brookings) Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy.

Ginsburg, reports POLITICO, called the plan “fiscally very dangerous” and speculated that a Republican tax overhaul could put the state in a precarious situation.

Still, Lara and his supporters, both within the legislature and without, emphasize California’s healthy economy and ability to extend Medicaid to a large, vulnerable community.

“It’s doable for a fraction of the budget surplus we have,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California. “We recognize if we were to do so, we would be the first state to expand Medicaid to an [undocumented] adult population.”

Wright said the plan might be more ‘achievable’ if its scale were downsized – perhaps encompassing only the very young and elderly, rather than the entirety of California’s undocumented population.


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