The California Senate’s Appropriations Committee passed SB 4 to give health care to all illegal/undocumented aliens. Breitbart News estimates that based on the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office projections, SB 4 will cost at least $1 billion, and the cost will undoubtedly go much higher over time.
With the state’s fiscal year winding down through June 30th, Sacramento politicians are furiously competing to spend a piece of the state’s $3 billion in “surplus” cash. On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee only rejected about a quarter of the 283 active bills, while the Assembly committee rejected only a third of their 421 bills.
But in a major move, the Democrat-controlled Senate Appropriations Committee amended and passed SB 4 on a 5-2 party line vote. The original “Bill Summary” said, “SB 4 would extend Medi-Cal eligibility to individuals who would otherwise be eligible, except for their immigration status.” The amended bill requires the state Health and Human Services agency to apply for federal authorization to offer “unsubsidized” healthcare coverage through California’s Obamacare exchange called Covered California.
Although the amendment’s author, Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), described the legislation as a limited enrollment healthcare program that is not a state “entitlement,” the bill directly extends free Medi-Cal access to those under the age of 19 and provides California taxpayer-funded free or highly subsidized coverage equivalent to Medi-Cal.
Sen. Lara told the LA Times, “Today’s vote represents a historic step forward on the path towards achieving health for all.” He added, “Ensuring that everyone in California is healthy is what’s right for our state.” But after California adopted Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion in 2013, Medi-Cal already grew 33 percent to 12.2 million beneficiaries.
Because former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder estimated Medicaid fraud was running at 20 percent, and the Office of Inspector General says California is the worst state, Democrat legislators emphasize that SB 4 will require higher-income illegal aliens to buy insurance from Covered California and pay for the premiums.
But the statistics regarding illegal/undocumented aliens’ willingness to comply with U.S. laws are shockingly poor. The Executive Office for Immigration Review reported that from 2003 to 2012, the percentage of all aliens that failed to show up for their immigration hearing after being released on their own recognizance averaged about 30 percent. But in the last year, the non-compliance rate skyrocketed to over 90 percent.
Currently, at least 858,779 non-detained aliens are deportable. But many have not been deported because they have “dropped off the radar,” according to the Center for Immigration Studies.
The Legislative Analyst’s Office has not officially “costed” SB 4 as amended, although it estimated that the original bill’s cost could be as high as $740 million per year, and a similar bill that stalled in the Legislature in last year’s budget fight would cost up to $1.4 billion.
According to the LAO, SB 4’s fiscal estimates “are subject to a great deal of uncertainty.” They also believe that “under current practice, counties perform a significant amount of the enrollment and caseload management for the Medi-Cal.” By expanding Medi-Cal eligibility, SB 4 “will significantly increase county enrollment costs.”
The biggest “uncertainty” is the number of illegal/undocumented aliens in California. The Obama administration’s official 2015 estimate is only 1.6 million immigrants, but the true number is likely at least twice as high. Undoubtedly, SB 4’s cost of providing health care for California’s illegal/undocumented aliens will go through the roof.