We have always talked about how other countries offer free health care to all their residents. While the dream of democratizing health care seemed impossible, California has taken a giant step toward making it a reality. As reported by CBS News, California will become the first state to guarantee free health care to all low-income undocumented immigrants. The move will cover an additional 764,000 people at an eventual cost of about $2.7 billion a year.
The initiative is part of a $307.9 billion operating budget that Governor Gavin Newsom is scheduled to sign today.
Newsom has pledged to make low-income adults eligible for the state’s Medicaid program by 2024, regardless of their immigration status.
This is an incredible accomplishment for activists and organizations calling for change for years.
According to UCLA researchers, undocumented adults in California have statistically similar rates of ER visits and a similar number of doctor visits as U.S.-born adults. However, uninsured undocumented adults have significantly lower rates of emergency department visits and fewer doctor visits than uninsured U.S.-born adults.
“Most people who go to the emergency room have insurance and are not worried about providing documents,” says Nadereh Pourat, Ph.D. director of research at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and a member of UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center Division of Cancer Prevention and Research. On the other hand, “the undocumented who end up in the emergency room have often delayed getting any care until they are critically ill.”
Meanwhile, while federal and state governments across the country offer free health care to low-income adults and children through Medicaid, the government does not pay for undocumented immigrants.
However, states like California have used their own taxes to cover a portion of the costs.
As CBS continued, about 92 percent of Californians currently have health insurance, putting the state in the middle of the pack nationally. But that will change once this budget is fully implemented, as adults living in the country illegally make up one of the largest groups of uninsured in the state.
“This will represent the biggest expansion of coverage in the nation since the start of the Affordable Care Act in 2014,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a statewide health care advocacy group. “In California, we recognize (that) everybody benefits when everybody is covered.”