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Advocates Push To Expand California Welfare Program

Advocates Push To Expand California Welfare Program
A bill is making its way through the California Legislature that would give Medi-Cal benefits to low-income adults who are living here illegally.

First step children. Next step adults.

That's what advocates of the poor say after state lawmakers recently agreed to extend Medi-Cal benefits to the children of immigrants who are living here illegally. Lawmakers have appropriated $40 million in the new state budget to give Medi-Cal coverage to some 170,000 immigrant children.

Advocates say they'd like the state to extend that benefit to adults.

According to an estimate from the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, it would cost about $369 million to cover the more than 1 million adults who lack immigration status.

Critics say Californians shouldn’t pay for illegal immigrants’ health insurance. But Anthony Wright, director of Health Access California, believes it’s actually a good investment.

“We know that it’s more effective and efficient to get people the primary, preventative care, rather than just deal with issues once they reach an emergency stage at the ER," Wright said.

A bill (SB 4) in the state legislature would give Medi-Cal benefits to all low-income immigrants, provided funding was available. It would also seek a federal waiver to allow wealthier immigrants to buy unsubsidized health plans through Covered California.