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Californians split on health coverage for those in the U.S. illegally

Californians split on health coverage for those in the U.S. illegally
Dr. Roshani Mehta gives David Munoz, 7, a check-up at a mobile clinic at Rosewood Park Elementary in Los Angeles. A new poll has found that likely voters are less likely than all adults to support expanding healthcare coverage to those in the U.S. illegally. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

A new statewide poll found a noticeable split among Californians when it comes to offering government subsidized healthcare regardless of immigration status.

The split is between Californians who vote and those who don't.

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The poll from the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California finds 54% of adults surveyed support broadening the state's Medi-Cal program to those who are in the country illegally. But when it comes to likely voters, support drops 10 points, to 44%.

"It's one of the most interesting findings," said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and pollster, about the question in the survey released Wednesday night.

Efforts to offer Medi-Cal coverage to those without legal residency began at the state Capitol in 2014. But concerns about cost and federal regulations stalled the effort. In October, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation to expand Medi-Cal services to children age 18 and younger who do not have legal status. The new law fully kicks in in May.

Baldassare said the gap between likely voters and adults can probably best be explained by the fact that there's less diversity among those who frequently cast ballots in California elections.

"They're older, they're more affluent and, as a result, more likely to have their healthcare needs taken care of already," he said.

The poll showed that 63% of those with annual incomes of $40,000 or less support the extension of Medi-Cal regardless of immigration status. In contrast, 54 percent% of those with annual incomes of $80,000 or more oppose it.

The author of the legislation, Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), has promised to bring back the idea of expanding Medi-Cal services to more adults in 2016. The poll suggests that would be popular with those who, for whatever reason, don't often cast a ballot.

"We live in a state where all the needs are not defined by the likely voters," Baldassare said.

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