A recently announced budget deal in California could pave the way for children, living in the USA illegally, to receive state-funded healthcare coverage. California would be the first state in the US to subsidize the healthcare costs of illegal immigrant children.
A deal struck between Governor Jerry Brown and legislative leaders would provide cover for an estimated 170,000 immigrants aged 18 years and under. It's expected that the plan will easily pass the state Senate and Assembly.
Additional cost to taxpayers
To subsidize the healthcare costs of 170,000 illegal immigrant children, it's estimated that the new plan will cost taxpayers $40 million over the first 12 months, beginning May 2016. According to the Los Angeles Times it will then cost $132 million annually, after the first year, to extend Medi-Cal coverage to low-income children under the age of 19 irrespective of their legal status.
Senior research fellow on poverty and the US welfare system for the right wing Heritage Foundation, Robert Rector, said: "It's a fact that illegal immigrants cost approximately $60 billion per year – meaning that they receive $60 billion more in US government benefits than they pay in taxes. The new plan in California will simply increase the amount of tax."
California's healthcare provision forms part of a $115.4 billion budget agreement for the state's upcoming fiscal year. Supporters of expanded healthcare spending say that 'it's a necessity because of federal inaction.'
Dithering in Washington
State senate leader, Kevin de León, said: "As Washington dithers because it can't get things done, we are in need of immigration reform. The fact is, many of these children require some form of healthcare and they get it in the emergency room."
However, according to the Associated Press, Republicans are arguing that expanded healthcare provisions won't improve access for illegal immigrants as there are not enough doctors that accept 'Medi-Cal' patients – California's Medicaid program.
Generous laws for illegal immigrants
Mr de León said: "This budget highlights that in California immigrants matter, irrespective of who they are and where they come from."
California is well-known for its liberal approach to illegal immigrants. In 2014, the state permitted those in the US illegally to apply for a driving licence. By April 2015, the state had received over 200,000 applications for a driving licence from undocumented immigrants, while the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) predicts that 1.4 million licences will be issued to illegal immigrants over the next three years.
Anti-Immigration Organisation denounces decision
Spokesman for the anti-immigration Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) - Ira Mehlman, criticised the plan to expand healthcare provisions saying: "I don't care how generous California thinks it is being this is just another example of the state paying massive bills in a continued and relentless effort to accommodate illegal US immigration."
He added: "It is forcing taxpayers to pay money to provide healthcare that could be supporting other crucial needs in the state. God knows there are many vital needs not being met in California."