By Jim Breslo
Published July 11, 2019
California is expanding its program to provide taxpayer-funded health care for illegal immigrants, though it’s not going as far as many Democratic presidential candidates want the nation to go.
At the second presidential primary debate, all 10 Democrats on stage said they favored government – meaning all of us who pay taxes – picking up the tab for health care for illegal immigrants with low incomes.
Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law Tuesday that provides free health care to all low-income young people ages 25 and younger in California, regardless of their immigration status. Previously the state funded health care for people 18 and younger with low incomes, including illegal immigrants.
State officials estimate that raising the age of health care coverage from 18 to 25 will benefit about 90,000 people, although the estimate is far from certain.
It’s surprising that California didn’t go further and allow older low-income illegal immigrants to also get coverage under its Medicaid program, which it calls Medi-Cal, right away.
Why is Newsom supporting such a tepid plan when he is supposed to be one of the leading progressives among Democrats, governing America’s most populous state on the left coast?
Newsom tried to explain the rationale for not covering anyone older than 25 with the new health care entitlement.
“Young people feel the crunch of the cost crisis acutely – from high rents and student debt,”
the governor said. “Health care shouldn’t be one more worry.”
Reading between the lines, Newsom may have mentioned rent and student debt to signal that he will work to get new government assistance for those expenses in the future. That would preserve his far-left credentials.
But here’s a big problem: The policy of expanded health insurance obviously incentivizes more illegal immigration into the U.S. It also incentivizes illegal immigrants in other states to come to California.
Under the expanded Medi-Cal program for illegal immigrants, it doesn’t matter when the young migrants arrived in the U.S., how they arrived, or what they have done since arriving.
A young person brought to the U.S. as a baby 20 years ago by his parents and a 23-year-old gang member who arrives next week would both be covered if they reported having low incomes.
Newsom himself has acknowledged that Mexican drug cartels are in California growing and selling marijuana. Cartel members would be covered. Convicted of a crime? Not a problem.
But here’s a big problem: The policy of expanded health insurance obviously incentivizes more illegal immigration into the U.S. It also incentivizes illegal immigrants in other states to come to California. So we can look forward to California becoming an even bigger magnet for illegal immigrants than it is today.
California has demonstrated it cannot take care of its own, as it grapples with massive issues from homelessness, to traffic, to prison overpopulation, to wildfires, to crumbling infrastructure and earthquakes.
Just 10 years ago California could barely pay its bills. It recently had to increase its gasoline tax, giving California residents like me the highest gas taxes in the country. And California also has the highest state income tax rate in the country.
Common sense would tell us that now is not the right time to be encouraging more impoverished illegal immigrants to come to the state, forcing California to shoulder even more costs and putting increased pressure on the state to raise our already high taxes still higher.
No doubt Newsom is being cautious in extending health coverage because he knows that the number of illegal immigrants in California is massive and it is almost impossible to estimate the number or the cost of providing health care to them all.
The cost of covering just those 19 to 25 is estimated to be almost $100 million. That is based on the estimate of 90,000 additional people being covered. Covering all low-income illegal immigrants in the state could raise the cost of the Medi-Cal expansion by billions of dollars each year. Even Newsom acknowledges the state can’t afford that – now.
But don’t worry. Newsom and Democrats in the state Legislature said they want to cover more illegal immigrant adults in the future. This would allow them to go as far to the left as many of their party’s presidential hopefuls.
“Mark my words, we’re going to make progress next year and the year after on that,” Newsom said. “That’s what universal health care means. Everybody, not just some folks.”
If he wants to make good on this pledge, Newsom should support President Trump’s efforts to find out how many illegal immigrants are in the U.S. Best to know the real costs of providing them with health care before making any more promises.