California will become the first state in the US to pay for some adults living in the country illegally to have full health benefits as the solidly liberal state continues to distance itself from President Donald Trump’s administration.
Democrats in the state legislature reached an agreement on Sunday afternoon as part of a broader plan to spend $213bn of state and federal tax money over the next year. The agreement means low-income adults between the ages of 19 and 25 living in California illegally would be eligible for California’s Medicaid program, the joint state and federal health insurance program for the poor and disabled.
Not everyone in that age group would get the health benefits, only those whose incomes are low enough to qualify for the program. State officials estimate that will be about 90,000 people at a cost of $98m a year.
The move is part of a larger effort to make sure everyone in California has health insurance. The proposal also makes California the first state in the country to help middle-income families pay their monthly health insurance premiums. The agreement means a family of four earning as much as six times the federal poverty level — or more than $150,000 a year — would be eligible to get about $100 a month from the government to help pay their monthly health insurance premiums.
But to pay for part of it, the state will begin taxing people who don’t have health insurance. It’s a revival of the individual mandate penalty that had been law nationwide under former president Barack Obama’s health care law until Republicans in Congress eliminated it as part of the 2017 overhaul to the tax code.
The budget agreement still must be approved by the full state legislature. State law requires lawmakers to enact a budget by midnight on 15 June. If they don’t, lawmakers would lose their pay.
The health care proposals are a win for first-term Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom, who proposed both of them. Several lawmakers in the Democratic-dominated state legislature wanted to go further by offering health coverage to all adults living in California illegally. But Newsom opposed that, noting it would cost $3.4bn.