California has become the first state to offer taxpayer-funded health benefits to young adults living in the country illegally.
Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law on Tuesday that makes low-income adults age 25 and younger eligible for the state’s Medicaid program regardless of their immigration status.
State officials expect the plan to cover about 90,000 people and cost taxpayers $98 million. California already covers children ages 18 and younger regardless of immigration status.
The law will not give health insurance benefits to everyone 25 and younger, but only those whose income is low enough to qualify.
Newsom and Democratic legislative leaders say they plan to further expand coverage to more adults in the years to come. Republican President Donald Trump has called the move “crazy .”
Advocates of the measure say it’s a way to improve the health of immigrants in the state by providing them with access to the medical care they need.
Many immigrants who are in the country illegally are already enrolled for some government-funded programs, but they only cover emergencies and pregnancies.
Democrats had pushed to expand the coverage to even more adults, but Newsom rejected the proposals, saying it would cost about $3.4 billion to provide coverage to all California adults living in the country illegally. But he has vowed to keep expanding coverage in future years.
The California GOP panned Democrats for pushing publicly funded health care for illegal migrants while simultaneously mulling a plan that mandates health insurance and slaps a penalty on those who choose not to participate.
“We’re going to penalize the citizens of this state that have followed the rules, but we’re going to let somebody who has not followed the rules come in here and get the services for free. I just think that’s wrong,” said Jeff Stone, a Republican state senator.