If you live in California and are experiencing long waits to get appointments with your doctors, it’s going to get worse.
California this week further expanded free health coverage to include all undocumented immigrants.
Gov. Gavin Newsom says this as an essential humanitarian gesture. “We’re making sure families and communities across California are healthier, stronger, and able to get the care they need when they need it.”
Except maybe the people already on Medicaid, Medicare, and everyone else who is paying high prices for private coverage.
Medi-Cal covers a third of California’s population—nearly 15 million residents. The latest expansion makes another 750,000 adults aged 26-49 in the country illegally now eligible for coverage, adding to earlier expansions to those under age 25 and over 50.
This is an open invitation to accelerate the already catastrophic number of immigrants illegally flooding into the country, putting even more strains on the medical workforce.
And California isn’t alone: 11 states and the District of Columbia provide comprehensive health coverage to more than one million low-income immigrants, regardless of their legal status. States must use their own funds to pay for the expansions since federal law, in general, precludes Medicaid expansion to these populations.
California estimates its latest expansion will cost $6.5 billion annually even as the state faces a record $68 billion budget deficit. The governor’s budget includes $1.7 billion over three years to fund training for nurses, social workers, EMTs, and community and mental health workers—hardly enough to meet the demand.
Seven more states are expected to expand illegal immigrant coverage by 2025, doubling current enrollment.
And it’s not limited to blue states. Republican-controlled Utah this year started covering children regardless of immigration status. “These are kids, and we have a heart,” said Utah state Rep. Jim Dunnigan, a Republican who initially opposed his state’s plan but yielded after compromises, including a cap on enrollment.
I am reminded of a father who called me during the debate over Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.
“My daughter has a number of medical problems and is confined to a wheelchair,” he said. “She needs to see a urologist regularly, and it can take me months to get an appointment. What am I going to do when I am competing for those appointments with millions more Medicaid patients?”
Medicaid pays doctors well below market rates and costs in many states. A Florida doctor who practices pulmonary medicine told me he wants to welcome Medicaid patients to his practice.
One example he recounted: After treating a Medicaid patient with serious lung disease and filling out volumes of paperwork required by the state, he got a check back for a few pennies. “Unfortunately, my practice would have to close if I have too many Medicaid patients.”
And I think of the family struggling to pay their health insurance premiums, often expensive even with generous taxpayer subsidies in Obamacare plans, plus meeting deductibles and copayments. They are now competing for medical care with millions of illegal immigrants who pay nothing for their coverage and care.
All of the advocates who cheer the positive effect this will have in giving immigrants access to care to prevent more expensive medical problems say little about those impacted by further crowding out of citizens with existing coverage who also need care.
And few talk about the incentive this provides for millions more to break the law in coming to this country without going through legal immigration channels.
“The physician shortage that we have long feared—and warned was on the horizon—is here,” American Medical Assn. President Jesse Ehrenfeld recently told the National Press Club.
“It’s an urgent crisis hitting every corner of this country—urban, rural—with the most direct impact hitting families with high needs and limited means,” said Dr. Ehrenfeld, an anesthesiologist. “Imagine walking into an emergency room in your moment of crisis, in desperate need of a physician’s care, and finding no one there to take care of you. That’s what we are up against.”
Coverage expansions, regardless of medical capacity, are steps in the Left’s march toward Medicare for All. Can they really believe that putting everyone on government-run health care is going to solve these problems?
We have better ideas, but that’s a column for another day…