PolitiCal

Healthcare for those in U.S. illegally could cost California $740 million a year

Senate analyst estimates cost of Medi-Cal expansion bill ranges from $280 million to $740 million annually

Extending state-subsidized healthcare coverage to people in the country illegally could cost California as much as $740 million annually, according to a Senate fiscal analysis released Monday.

The report affixes a price tag to the proposal for the first time since Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) introduced his bill last December. 

Researchers at UC Berkeley and UCLA estimate that, in California, about 1.8 million people who are in the country illegally lack healthcare coverage. Around 1.5 million of them would qualify for Medi-Cal.

The analysis lays out two scenarios to calculate the proposal's cost. Under the status quo, the increase in Medi-Cal spending would range from $280 million to $740 million annually. The report estimates that between 50-60% of eligible immigrants would enroll in the healthcare program.

The report also examines how President Obama's recent executive order offering deportation relief to certain immigrants would affect the measure's cost. If the order -- currently on hold due to a court injunction -- is upheld, around 900,000 immigrants in the state would qualify, according to the analysis, and would be eligible for Medi-Cal and other state programs.

In February, legislative analysts warned that the fiscal impact of the president's action is "highly uncertain."

Monday's report said the cost of providing coverage to those affected by the order would "not be attributable" to Lara's bill, SB 4. It pegged the price of covering the remaining people in the country illegally at ranging between $175 million and $455 million.

In a statement, Lara said the analysis reflects "our ongoing efforts to develop a realistic, cost-effective solution in our pursuit of expanding healthcare for all Californians, regardless of immigration status."

Follow @melmason for more on California government and politics.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

1:52 p.m.: This post has been updated with a statement from Lara.

The first version of this post was originally published at 1:31 p.m.

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