Tue | Jun 18, 2019

California eyes health care for immigrants in US illegally

Published:Wednesday | May 22, 2019 | 4:20 PM
Supporters of proposals to expand California's government-funded health care benefits to undocumented immigrants gathered at the Capitol for the Immigrants Day of Action, Monday, May 20, 2019, in Sacramento, California. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Lilian Serrano’s mother-in-law had lots of stomach problems, but she always blamed food.

Doctors at a San Diego-area clinic suspected Genoveva Angeles might have cancer, but they could not say for sure because they did not have the equipment to test for it and Angeles, who had been in the country illegally for 20 years, could not afford to see a specialist and did not qualify for state assistance because of her immigration status.

In September, Angeles finally learned she had gallbladder cancer.

Serrano said she was in the hospital room when Angeles, in her late 60s, died about two weeks later.

“We don’t know if she would have survived treatment, but she was not even able to access it,” said Serrano, chairwoman of the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium.

“She never had a chance to fight cancer.”

Stories like that have prompted California lawmakers to consider proposals that would make the state the first in the nation to offer government-funded health care to adult immigrants living in the country illegally.

But the decision on who to cover may come down to cost.

Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom wants to spend about $98 million a year to cover low-income immigrants between the ages of 19 and 25 who are living in the country illegally.

The state Assembly has a bill that would cover all immigrants in California living in the country illegally over the age of 19. But Newsom has balked at that plan because of its estimated $3.4 billion price.

“There’s 3.4 billion reasons why it is a challenge,” he said.

The state Senate wants to cover adults ages 19 to 25, plus seniors 65 and older.

That bill’s sponsor, Senator  Maria Elana Durazo, scoffed at cost concerns, noting the state has a projected $21.5 billion budget surplus.

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