California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday, Jan. 10, called for $80.5 million to extend health care coverage to 27,000 illegal aliens 65 and older, amid homelessness epidemic.

State Sen. Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles) proposed the bill, which she said would have expanded coverage to adults 65 or older who are living in the United States illegally. 

A legislative analysis of SB 29 estimated that 25,300 people who are 65 or older and lack legal status would enroll in Medi-Cal coverage. The Newsom administration formally opposed Durazo’s bill last year, saying that it would “create significant general fund pressure.”

Newsom told Durazo in September 2019 that he would champion the effort in his next budget. And he did.

Opponents of the expansion said the additional elderly illegal aliens will put a further strain on a system that is already struggling because of too few doctors who are willing to accept the state’s low reimbursement rates.

“There are issues with access,” said state Sen. Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) in opposing the bill in May 2019 adding that extending coverage to more people when those currently enrolled struggle to get appointments would constitute a “false promise.”

In 2015, California expanded the health care program to children living in the United States illegally, costing $300 million a year. This month, California became the first state to cover adult immigrants younger than 26 who lack legal status through the state’s Medi-Cal program under Newsom’s proposal to spend $250 million a year on the effort, which was included in last year’s budget, according to Los Angeles Times

Newsom signed an executive order two days earlier, on Jan. 8 creating what he intends to be a $750 million fund that providers could tap to pay rents, fund affordable housing, or aid boarding and care homes. Newsom also wants to use vacant state property to house homeless people and is seeking changes to the state’s Medicaid program to increase spending on preventive health care.

The Democratic governor said the final portion of $650 million in emergency homeless aid to cities and counties approved in June was being released on the same day after a final federal homelessness count, according to The Sacrament to Bee

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