Santa Maria - North County

California set to become first state to expand health coverage to more undocumented immigrants

Undocumented immigrants ages 19-25 could benefit

California set to become first state to expand health coverage to more undocumented immigrants

LOMPOC, Calif. - California is set to become the first state to provide health insurance to more undocumented immigrants. On Sunday, lawmakers in Sacramento decided to move forward with the plan.


The initiative will offer services through the state's Medicaid program, and is expected to cover 90,000 undocumented immigrants between the ages of 19 and 25.


“I think it's a great move towards helping our undocumented, low-income families,” said Joanna Barrera of Importa, a nonprofit organization offering legal services. 


The provision will cost the Golden State around $98 million in its first year.


“Our families are working hard every day paying into local taxes, and so they deserve a fair share of these government benefits,” said Barrera. 


The California Immigrant Policy Center says undocumented immigrants contribute $3 billion in annual state and local tax payments.


The Public Policy Institute of California sets the number of undocumented immigrants in Santa Barbara County at more than 41,000 people, and in San Luis Obispo County at around 9,000.  


Some Central Coast residents disagree with the proposal.


“I feel it's unfair to offer this health coverage to, especially young, able-bodied adults who could get jobs that provide this health insurance,” said Lompoc resident Nikolai Nikolenko.


The initiative is part of Governor Gavin Newsom's broader budget deal.


Republicans on the legislative committee negotiating the budget rejected the healthcare plan because the state will tax uninsured Californians to fund part of the program.


Nikolenko says lawmakers should look after American citizens first.


“We really need to focus on taking care of our own citizens, especially our warriors, our veterans.”


However, immigrant rights advocates hope California will expand health services to undocumented adults over the age of 25, too.


“They have careers, they have lives settled here, they have kids here,” Barrera says. 


California has been covering undocumented children since 2016.


The state legislature must officially vote on the budget by June 15. Coverage would take effect in 2020.

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