California Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled a budget proposal on Monday that would include expanding the state’s Medi-Cal health coverage to all low-income illegal immigrants in the state.
The Golden State already began offering coverage to low-income illegal immigrants 26 and under in 2019 and added coverage for those 55 and older last year. Now, the Democratic governor has proposed covering the remainder beginning no sooner than January 1, 2024.
Newsom did not say whether he would look to phase in the additional health coverage or how he planned to pay for it, the Associated Press reported.
The move would make California the first state to provide universal health care access for all residents regardless of legal status and could cost some $2.4 billion per year, according to one legislative analysis.
The expansion is included in Newsom’s $286 billion state budget proposal, which makes use of a projected $45.7 billion surplus.
The governor’s budget identifies a slate of “existential threats” facing the state, include the Covid-19 pandemic; wildfires and drought worsened by global warming; homelessness; income inequality including the lack of health insurance for some immigrants; and public safety, including combatting a recent spike of coordinated smash-and-grab robberies.
Newsom’s plan includes $300 million in spending to boost law enforcement efforts to fight retail theft, as well as $2 billion for mental health services, housing and cleaning homeless encampments to address the state’s homelessness problem.
The governor also proposed “doubling down” on the state’s existing plan to offer free universal pre-kindergarten and to bolster before, after and summer school programs.
The proposal will precede months of negotiations with Democratic lawmakers in the state Legislature before Newsom presents an updated spending proposal in May.
Newsom’s initiative is in keeping with a broader Democratic effort to offer rights and privileges historically reserved for citizens to non-citizens. New York City mayor Eric Adams signed a law on Sunday that allows the city’s 800,000 non-citizens to vote in local elections.