Budget proposal would expand Medi-Cal to undocumented young adults

In California, there are two million undocumented immigrants and this week, Governor Brown has a decision to make to when it comes to their health.

Should the state expand Medi-Cal to cover young adults up to 26, no matter legal status? Advocates all across the state and at the Capitol stood up asking for the Governor to say yes.

Inside the Capitol's rotunda, a group of people with birthday hats, signs and a piñata were gathering to deliver a birthday card to the Governor. The card, delivered by 28-year-old Angela Velazquez, was a symbolic gesture. They were asking for one birthday wish: healthcare by passing the budget proposal of expanding Medi-Cal to cover young adults no matter legal status.

"When I was 19 I aged out of my parents insurance, at 22 I was diagnosed with cancer and I was undocumented and uninsured," Velazquez said.

She told ABC10's Anne Di Grazia her 23rd birthday was spent in recovery, so delivering the card was special.

"I survived and I am not using my experienced in a negative way but to help others, I have become more resilient," Velazquez said.

Last year, full scope Medi-Cal was expanded to undocumented children, so this budget proposal would just expand it further to 19 to 26 year olds.

"The question is not are these folks getting healthcare, it's are we going to provide them with the preventative care on the front end or are we only going to see them in the most expensive end in the emergency room?" Anthony Wright asked.

Wright is the executive director of Health Access, a healthcare advocacy group, and says the proposal would take 10 percent of the recent tobacco tax. The groups behind this effort want to use $80-90 million in funding from the tobacco tax to pay for expanding Medi-Cal to some undocumented immigrants.

A large portion of the tobacco tax is being proposed to boost the general, overall spending of the Medi-Cal program. Projections suggest the tax will generate over $1 billion per year for the state and that's based off raising the cigarette tax from .87 cents to $2.87 per pack. The tax increase went into effect in April and was approved by voters in November.

Wright said this proposal would be an investment for young undocumented adults, including some dreamers like UC Davis student Carolina Gomez. She rallied outside the Capitol chanting, "Young adults, health for all."

Critics of the proposal say the state should take care of documented people first.

Gomez responded the critics by saying, "Undocumented people like myself pay taxes for services for all Californians so I think it is only fair that we are advocating for basic medical services, that other people already have."

The Governor will be making a decision on the budget proposal this week.

© 2017 KXTV-TV


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