Illegal Immigrants to Receive Free Healthcare as State Sinks

Illegal Immigrants to Receive Free Healthcare as State Sinks

( – Starting January 1, California will implement a significant policy shift, enabling undocumented immigrants aged 26 to 49 to qualify for and access Medi-Cal. This taxpayer-funded healthcare plan, designed for low-income residents, is expected to enroll an additional 700,000 users — incurring an annual cost of $2.7 billion. The expansion resulted from SB 184, an omnibus spending bill.

This move comes amid challenges in California’s healthcare system, which is grappling with shortages exacerbated by introducing a new $25 minimum wage for healthcare workers. Concerns arise that this wage increase might further reduce staffing levels, especially among doctors willing to accept Medi-Cal’s already low reimbursement rates.

Healthcare providers’ reimbursement rates from Medi-Cal are significantly lower than those typically offered by private insurers. The prospect of an additional one million users joining the system raises concerns about a potential decline in the number of doctors available to serve Medi-Cal patients.

Sally Pipes, President, and Thomas W. Smith, Fellow in healthcare policy at the Pacific Research Center, underscore the challenges Medi-Cal recipients face in finding healthcare providers due to the low reimbursement rates. She stated, “Those with Medi-Cal often encounter prolonged waiting periods when trying to access medical care.”

California is already dealing with significant shortages in healthcare professionals, exacerbated by a looming $68 billion deficit and a spending freeze for the current fiscal year.

The policy change also has implications for immigration-related considerations. Under the previous “public charge” rule, reliance on government aid could lead to rejecting green card or citizenship applications. Although the Trump administration considered Medi-Cal benefits, the Biden administration has discontinued this practice, potentially paving the way for increased immigration, which, in turn, could elevate Medi-Cal spending.

Currently, immigrants residing in the US without legal permission cannot purchase insurance from Covered California, the state-run exchange providing significant discounts for those meeting specific income criteria.

A bill supported by the California Immigrant Policy Center, pending in the state Legislature, aims to address this issue. Sarah Dar, policy director for the California Immigrant Policy Center, emphasizes the importance of advocating for these communities during economic downturns despite challenges with reduced revenues.

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