California is set to become the first state to extend health coverage to some undocumented young adults through its Medicaid program.
The move by the big blue state comes as the Trump administration is cracking down on undocumented immigrants, particularly at the southern border -- and as the Supreme Court is poised to take up a case concerning President Donald Trump's moves to undo Obama-era protections for young adults brought to the US as children. But it is also a time when Democrats are seeking a pathway to get more uninsured people covered.
The state legislature, which is dominated by Democrats, agreed Sunday to the provision, which was pushed by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, as part of its broader budget deal. They must vote on it by June 15.
Newsom proposed the effort -- part of a larger health care package -- on his first day in office in January. It is expected to cover more than 90,000 low-income residents between the ages of 19 and 25 and cost the state $98 million in its initial year. The coverage would take effect in 2020.
The Golden State led the way in this arena by covering undocumented children up to age 19. Some 240,000 children are now in the program, which began in 2016.
"Undocumented young adults should not have to worry about losing their health coverage when they turn 19," Newsom said in January, describing the effort as "another major step toward universal coverage."
The state Senate had hoped to cover undocumented seniors as well, but that provision did not make it into the budget deal over concerns about its cost.
While the Trump administration is painting undocumented immigrants as dangerous, Cynthia Buiza, executive director of the advocacy group California Immigrant Policy Center, argues that healthier immigrants can be more productive.
"They can work longer. They can contribute to our economy better," she said.
Also as part of Newsom's proposal, the state will provide enhanced premium subsidies to help middle class residents afford coverage on the Affordable Care Act exchange. Families of four earning up to about $150,000 can get around $100 a month to buy policies on the Covered California marketplace, starting next year.
It will be paid for by restoring a state version of the individual mandate, which requires residents to have health insurance or pay a penalty. Republicans in Congress effectively eliminated the federal mandate as of this year as part of the 2017 tax cut law.
Other Democrats are also seeking to show their commitment to expanding health care coverage, including for undocumented immigrants. In January, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a candidate in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, unveiled a program called NYC Care aimed at allowing all New Yorkers to receive medical care, funded through the city's public health care system. There are roughly 600,000 residents without health insurance, half of them undocumented immigrants, according to city officials.
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