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California is set to become the first state in America to achieve universal healthcare access under a new proposal outlined by Governor Gavin Newsom. As part of his state budget proposal, Newsom plans to give all low-income residents in California, regardless of US immigration status, access to the state’s Medicaid coverage.
Newsom’s proposed $286 billion budget includes a $614 million fund to expand Medi-Cal eligibility for all California residents, which would make it the first state to extend healthcare coverage to all residents and the first in America to offer universal healthcare.
In a recent press conference, Governor Newsom said: “California is poised to be … the first state in the country to achieve universal access to health coverage.”
Immigrants living in California aged 26 and under became eligible for the Medi-Cal program in 2019, while those aged 55 and overqualified for the scheme in 2020. Governor Newsom is hoping to close the gap for those in between these two age brackets while asking state legislators to cover the remaining immigrant population.
It’s understood that more than three million California residents will be medically uninsured in 2022. Meanwhile, people who are currently eligible for medical insurance coverage through the state’s Covered California marketplace account for 28% of the state’s uninsured population, while undocumented immigrants make up 65%.
Official figures show that approximately 12 million people are enrolled in the Medi-Cal program.
The push to expand access to all eligible people is part of a years-long ‘Health4All’ campaign spearheaded by state legislators and US immigration groups. However, the proposals are expected to cost the state $2.7 billion a year.
Access to life-saving healthcare
A statement issued by the California Immigration Policy Center said: “The proposal could mean that hundreds of thousands of currently uninsured Californians would be able to access life-saving, critical healthcare.”
According to UC Berkeley’s Labor Center, undocumented US residents are excluded from Affordable Care Act measures and Medicaid eligibility.
Meanwhile, non-US citizens without a green card are more unlikely to have employment-based healthcare coverage – on which half of America relies – compared to US citizens because of the higher likelihood that their terms of employment do not include a healthcare plan.
The proposal to include immigrants in universal access to healthcare in California comes after the state saw a boost in revenues, despite fears that a looming deficit in the economic fallout from the pandemic could impede the state for years.
However, revenues have surged in recent years, with income, sales and corporate tax collection spiking by 40% from 2020 and 60% in 2021, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office.
Meanwhile, Democratic legislators have outlined plans for California to adopt a ‘single-payer health plan’, which would see medical expenses for all state residents covered through a government-run fund as opposed to what they describe as a ‘patchwork system of private providers with complex plans, plus federal and state-subsidized programs’.
Californian Assembly member, Ash Karla – who authored the single-payer funding plan proposal – said: “The legislation will allow Californians to decide for themselves if they are better off paying for the most expensive healthcare in the world with the worst outcomes of any wealthy nation, or guaranteed healthcare for all with CalCare while reducing overall healthcare costs.”
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