California will become the first state to pay full health benefits for some adults living illegally in the country as the solidly liberal bastion continues to resist Republican President Donald Trump’s administration’s policies.
Sunday afternoon Democrats in the state Legislature reached an agreement as part of a wider scheme to invest $213 billion in state and federal tax cash over the coming year. It is anticipated that the Legislature will approve the agreement this week. The arrangement implies that low-income people aged 19 to 25 residing illegally in California would qualify for the Medicaid program of California, the joint state and federal health insurance program for the needy and the disabled.
Only those in that age group whose income is sufficiently low enough to qualify for the program would reap anything from the health benefits. State officials estimate that at a cost of $98 million per year, the group will be around 90,000 people. The State Senate wished to extend the proposition to include 65 and older adults, but the Newsom administration claimed that it would cost too much.
“California believes that health is a fundamental right,” said state Sen. Holly Mitchell, a Los Angeles Democrat who led the budget negotiations.
The proposition also makes California the country’s first state to assist middle-income households settle their monthly premiums for health insurance. It a family of four getting up to six times the amount of national poverty—or more than $150,000 a year—would be entitled to receive about $100 a month from the state to assist cover their monthly health insurance premiums.
But to pay for part of it, the state will begin taxing people who don’t have health insurance. It’s a revival of the individual mandate penalty that had been law nationwide under former President Barack Obama’s health care law until Republicans in Congress eliminated it as part of the 2017 overhaul to the tax code.
Republicans on the legislative committee negotiating the budget voted against the proposal, arguing it was not fair to give health benefits to people who are in the country illegally while taxing people who are here legally for not purchasing health insurance.
The budget agreement still must be approved by the full state Legislature. State law requires lawmakers to enact a budget by midnight on June 15. If they don’t, lawmakers would lose their pay.
Newsom wanted to spend an additional $800 million to boost the annual tax refunds for low-income people who have at least one child under the age of 6. But to pay for it, he wanted to selectively adopt some of the changes to the federal tax code that Trump signed into law in 2017. The changes, which would mostly impact businesses, would have brought the state an extra $1 billion.
But the Legislature did not include the tax changes in its version of the budget proposal. Instead, lawmakers said they hope to reach a tax agreement outside of the budget process by July 1.