Days after California became the first state in the nation to offer Medi-Cal to all low-income undocumented residents, a Republican lawmaker introduced a controversial measure to stop future health care funding for the group.
The legislation was authored last week by Assemblyman Bill Essayli, R-Corona, a first-term lawmaker who has been outspoken on conservative issues.
The bill’s introduction comes days before Gov. Gavin Newsom would present his plan for closing the state’s $68 billion budget deficit. Newsom has repeatedly cited his commitment to protecting the expansion, which is estimated to cost $4 billion per year.
“This is my way of signaling that it should be the first thing to get cut from the budget before we start cutting into education or health care for Californians or other things that are going to be very tough to cut,” Essayli said. “This should be the first.”
Essayli’s measure, Assembly Bill 1783, came in response to California expanding eligibility of Medi-Cal to all low-income undocumented residents. On Jan. 1, the state opened eligibility to undocumented adults 26 to 49 — the last remaining age group to be included.
The state began allowing undocumented children to join Medi-Cal in 2015, and has continued to broaden eligibility per age groups over the last eight years.
But Essayli, elected in November 2022, said he did not learn of the ongoing expansion until last week and argues it will lead to major doctor and health care staffing shortages.
“I wasn’t here when they passed the initial bills to authorize the spending for illegal immigrant health care, and I definitely would have opposed it then,” Essayli said. “But now that I’m here, I’m in a position to do something about it.”
Essayli said people should still be treated in emergency situations, but no one “should be rewarded with universal health care.”
The measure has virtually no chance of passing. Republicans have little power in the state’s Democratic supermajority Legislature.
The state Republican Party opposes giving any social benefits to people who do not have legal status, according to the party’s platform, but Essayli has faced backlash from colleagues in his own party.
Assemblyman Devon Mathis, R-Porterville wrote an opinion piece featured in The Sacramento Bee in which he argued cutting preventative care for those who are undocumented would drive up costs for the state and called Essayli an “inexperienced legislator.”
Essayli fired back at Mathis by calling him a “loser,” “embarrassment” and “corrupt” on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Former Assembly Democratic Majority Leader Ian Calderon responded to Essayli, suggesting he refrain from personal attacks against colleagues if he wants to be considered a “serious lawmaker.”
This story was originally published January 9, 2024, 9:55 AM.