Costs of Undocumented Residents’ Health Care Eyed Amid Budget Strain
As California lawmakers grapple with various proposals to mend a mounting budget deficit, some advocates are beginning to question state spending on services for undocumented immigrants, the Los Angeles Times reports.
California has about 2.7 million undocumented residents, who account for roughly 7% of the state's population, according to an April report by the Pew Hispanic Center.
State Payouts for Undocumented Immigrant Health Care
In fiscal year 2009-2010, the state is expected to pay $703 million in health care costs for as many as 780,000 undocumented immigrants.
Of those funds, roughly $486 million will go to emergency services. Federal law requires emergency departments to treat all patients, regardless of citizenship status.
California also allows undocumented immigrants to receive some types of nonemergency care, including:
- Breast and cervical cancer treatment;
- Nursing home stays and other types of long-term care; and
- Prenatal and postpartum care.
The Legislature authorized the state to cover most of these services in the 1980s.
State Budget Implications
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has said that undocumented immigrants are not the cause of the state's financial difficulties.
However, the governor has proposed scaling back nonemergency health care and other services for undocumented immigrants as part of his proposal to fix the state's budget gap. Lawmakers thus far have rejected his plans.
Some advocates contend that state cuts to health care for undocumented immigrants will simply shift costs to counties.Â Many California counties already have begun denying treatment to illegal immigrants in efforts to close their own budget deficits.
Other advocates suggest that the state can best reduce costs by limiting undocumented immigration, rather than cutting off health care and other critical services (Gorman/Watanabe, Los Angeles Times, 7/10).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.