California is closer to becoming the first state to guarantee health coverage for eligible undocumented immigrants after state Democrats on Sunday, June 9 agreed to the plan first proposed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

As previously reported in the Asian Journal, Newsom’s May budget revision includes a statewide health care plan that would expand Medi-Cal (California’s state Medicare program) to all working low-income residents under the age of 26, regardless of citizenship status.

The governor’s budget proposal was approved by the California Legislature’s Conference Committee on the Budget in the Democratic-led legislature. The Medi-Cal expansion would cost nearly $100 million and would provide “full-scope coverage” for more than 130,000 undocumented people in the first year, according to the budget summary. 

About 75% of all eligible immigrants already receive coverage through Medi-Cal or receive benefits through SB 75.

Newsom’s plan satisfies two of his campaign promises: maintain California’s status as a sanctuary state and move the state more toward a universal health care plan that believes “in covering everybody regardless of immigration status,” Newsom said during a recent teleconference.

The Medi-Cal expansion is only a part of the wide-ranging changes Newsom plans to make within the state’s public health care system. Newsom also plans to reinstate a version of the individual mandate imposed by the Affordable Care Act, which would penalize individuals who forego health insurance coverage. The GOP rolled back the individual mandate on a federal level in 2017.

California may also become the first state to extend eligibility for health insurance subsidies under Covered California to middle-class families that earn a maximum of 600% below the federal poverty level. A family of four may earn up to $154,500 a year and still qualify for a discount.

Both the Medi-Cal expansion and the subsidies extension would partially be funded tax dollars generated from the individual mandate’s tax penalty.

Newsom’s budget plan are currently pending final approval from both the Senate and the Assembly, which are going to review the proposal later this week — the deadline for a new state budget is Saturday, June 15. (Klarize Medenilla/AJPress)

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