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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

California OKs Health Care For Some Adult Immigrants

 June 12, 2019 at 10:51 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 California believes healthcare is a fundamental right. That is the sentiment of state democratic. Senator Holly Mitchell from Los Angeles. She led state budget negotiations to expand healthcare to people regardless of immigration status. It's all part of the state's $213 billion budget plan. And if approved, California would become the first state in the nation to offer healthcare coverage to some people living here without documents. Katie or is the politics and government reporter with Kq Ed. She's been following the budget negotiations and joins us with details. Katie, welcome. Thanks for having me. What else can you tell us about the plan to provide healthcare to some undocumented immigrants? Uh, who would be eligible? So Speaker 2: 00:42 fornia already provides a medic cal to undocumented children. This would extend it to a young adults between the ages of 19 and I'm 25. And this was a bit of a compromise on the legislature's part. They had wanted the program to extend to undocumented seniors as well. However, that was something that Governor Gavin Newsom, I'm rejected because it would have cost more than $3 billion. Uh, so that's not happening this year. Again, it's just being extended to eligible people between the ages of 19 and 25. And um, it's estimated that is about 90,000 people and it'll cost about $98 million a year. Uh, but I would not be surprised if we see an effort to include undocumented seniors, uh, coming back again in, in the coming years, Speaker 1: 01:36 lawmakers also agreed to expand subsidies for health insurance under covered California. Tell us more about those changes. Speaker 2: 01:43 Right. Um, this was an effort by California to reinstate, um, what had been the federal mandate under Obamacare, uh, Republicans in Congress and president Trump repealed the federal mandate in 2017. Um, this would require everyone in the state to have health insurance and the state in order to make that happen would offer more subsidies for people to help pay for those plants. Now to help fund those subsidies, people who did not have insurance would be find a, so that's where the revenue would come from. So there you have California trying to impose a mandate that the federal government has repealed Speaker 1: 02:24 and this is the governor's first state budget. What are some of the other notable items in this plan? And what about on education? Speaker 2: 02:32 Uh, yeah, this is a record breaking year for education. Um, they're spending huge amounts of money on it, although a lot of it is mandated by proposition 98, which is the formula under which, um, schools in California are funded. It's interesting because while schools are getting a lot of money this year, the California Teacher's association and other interests, I'm still have held large rallies around the state and in California, um, really decrying the lack of funding saying California is among the lowest in the country when it comes to per pupil spending and that we're not seeing the results that we need and that we need even more spending to go into schools. Even though lawmakers really tout this as a great budget for education. What got left out of the budget deal, I've read that governor Newsom was pushing for a 95 cent tax for safe drinking water. Speaker 2: 03:25 Yeah. He had wanted that tax, um, to help provide clean drinking water to the, about a million people in the state that are estimated not to have access to clean drinking water. Um, the problem with that is text votes are hard for lawmakers to make because it's something that they ultimately have to defend when they are up for reelection. And people say we are already taxed a lot in the states. So why are you adding even more taxes? Um, onto our tab essentially. So lawmakers, I'm got the governor to agree that they will fund the program, but they'll fund it primarily with revenues from California's cap and trade program. Uh, so instead of having to make lawmakers a vote on a relatively small amount of money, uh, the state, we'll just fund it in other ways, but the program to provide a clean drinking water still will be funded. Speaker 2: 04:22 What's been the reaction so far on this spending deal? You know, it's interesting because, um, democrats, especially democratic leadership, um, have really praised it. They have cited like reinvestments in education in early child care. They tout the benefits of extending it, extending Medi-Cal to undocumented immigrants, which they say in the long run will save the state money. Um, but there are people who are concerned, uh, about, you know, increased costs and point out that California has a $21 billion surplus. So when we talk about things like, um, mandates to help pay for health insurance subsidies, they point out, you know, the state has this money in the bank. Why are we putting another burden on consumers? Um, governor Newsom and others, uh, and his supporters will argue, will argue that we have been in a time of economic expansion and that and downturn is inevitable and they want to make sure the state has money in the bank, uh, to be prepared for that and how our Republicans reacting. Speaker 2: 05:29 There is, um, mixed reaction among Republicans. Certainly they appreciate some of the programs. Um, for instance, um, there has been talk about extending, um, tax breaks for low income people and that is something that they are generally supportive of. But again, the question of when it comes to questions of raising taxes, um, for various programs on Californians, they will point out that the state has a high tax rate already. Uh, for instance, we just passed a new gas tax and the state has a large budget surplus. So in the, from their point of view, they believe that the state really should be finding other ways to pay for these programs versus passing these costs on to consumers and to residents. And the budget's still has to be approved by the full legislature. When do we expect that to happen? Um, I expect that they will have a vote tomorrow. Speaker 2: 06:25 There is a floor session scheduled for tomorrow. Um, it has to be passed by Saturday, the 15th. But I think that it will easily make that deadline. And you know, again, the Democrats have such a large majority in the legislature that even if there are certain aspects of the budget they're not thrilled with, I don't think they would have trouble getting the votes because they just need a majority vote. So even if republicans were unhappy with the entire budget, it wouldn't really matter there. Their support, frankly, isn't needed to get it through. I've been speaking with Katie or politics and government reporter with Kq, e D Katie. Thank you. You're welcome.

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Some low-income adults in California living in the country illegally will soon get their health benefits paid for by taxpayers.
KPBS Midday Edition Segments