Capitol Alert

Will Jerry Brown expand health care to undocumented adults in California?

California senator wants Gov. Jerry Brown to expand Medi-Cal to undocumented adults

Democratic state Sen. Ricardo Lara is seeking to expand the state’s low-income health program to undocumented adults up to age 26.
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Democratic state Sen. Ricardo Lara is seeking to expand the state’s low-income health program to undocumented adults up to age 26.

State Sen. Ricardo Lara doesn’t only want to reconstruct the way health care is delivered and paid for in California. As the debate around publicly funded universal health care heats up in the Capitol, Lara is also seeking to expand the state’s low-income health program to undocumented adults up to age 26.

The Democrat from Bell Gardens is pushing through the budget process to allow low-income undocumented adults to enroll in Medi-Cal. If successful, his effort would build on a previous bill from Lara signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2015 that allows undocumented kids and teens to enroll in Medi-Cal.

Since it went into effect last May, the “health for all kids” Medi-Cal expansion has covered an additional 189,000 people, according to Rachel Linn-Gish, a Health Access spokeswoman.

“If people have access to health care, it is a lot less money than having them go to the emergency room, which costs us triple the amount,” Lara said in an interview Monday.

The budget ask is expected to be $80 million to $90 million from Proposition 56 tobacco tax revenue, according to Health Access California, which is working with Lara on the effort. Projected revenue under the state’s new tobacco tax is $1.2 billion per year.

Advocates want to expand Medi-Cal for those up to age 26 so those currently enrolled don’t lose access. Low-income young people could benefit because they generally work low wage jobs that don’t offer health insurance. Undocumented people are not eligible for Obamacare.

“It could improve my health because I wouldn’t have to decide between paying for a doctor visit or buying books,” said Julio Vargas, 25, a farmworker who works in the Central Valley. “I wanted to be treated equally so I can continue my education.”

WORTH REPEATING: “The state should do its part to assist firearm purchasers with understanding these laws.” – Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-Dublin, on her bill requiring updated warning material in gun stores.

REPUBLICAN TARGETS: Republican Congressmen Devin Nunes of Tulare and Duncan Hunter of Alpine have been added to the list of House Republicans being targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2018.

“Debacle. Fiasco. Train Wreck. Sinking ship. Pandemonium. Three-alarm fire. Dumpster fire...none of these words or phrases can appropriately encapsulate the first 120 days of Republican-controlled Washington,” the DCCC said in Monday announcing the new targets.

It could be a long shot. The Central Valley held by Nunes and the San Diego-area district represented by Hunter are both considered Republican strongholds and both went for Trump last November. The tally of Republican targets in California now stands at 9.

The DCCC is hoping that California Republicans’ vote for the American Health Care Act – it passed the House earlier this month – could make them vulnerable. Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare comes as its popularity is surging.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is targeting four Democratic seats in California, including Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove.

GAS TAX RECALL: The California Republican Party has begun to put some serious money into the budding effort to oust state Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton. Friday, the party reported independent spending of almost $149,000 in support of the recall drive, including $125,000 to help gather the 63,593 valid voter signatures needed to qualify the measure. The party also reported spending $13,750 for polling, $5,600 for advertisements,and $459 for yard signs. In other developments, a Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association campaign committee on Friday gave $50,000 to the committee leading the recall effort.

DEMOCRATIC F-BOMBS: California’s Republican Party chair is not happy about all the Trump bashing that went on this past weekend at the state Democratic Party convention in Sacramento.

“The constant refrain from California Democrats criticizing President Trump is an effort to distract from their record in California,” the Republican Party led by Jim Brulte said in a statement Monday. “If Donald Trump were not president, Democrats would still have raised the gas tax on working Californians and Democrats would still be supporting high-speed rail ...They don’t want to talk about their record...which is why they want...California voters to focus solely on President Trump.”

WILLIE BROWN: The former San Francisco mayor and Assembly speaker discusses national and regional political trends at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. Tickets are $35.

FINANCE DIRECTOR: The state’s finance director, Michael Cohen, is taking an “extended leave of absence” after experiencing a “serious health issue that left him hospitalized last week,” Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer said in an email Monday.

It comes at a tough time. The state’s budget deadline is June 15 and negotiations are underway. Not to worry. Cohen’s duties will be handled by Amy Costa and Eraina Ortega, chief deputy directors, and Todd Jerue, chief operating office for the Department of Finance.

We wish Cohen a speedy recovery.

IMPROVING VOTING: Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego, touts her proposal to modernize California’s voting systems at a news conference set for noon in Room 317 of the Capitol. Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who has championed measures to make it easier to vote in California (automatic voter registration, for example), will also be there. Assembly Bill 668 seeks a $450 million bond to revamp state voting systems.

MEDAL OF VALOR: Twenty-two state employees will be honored at the governor’s medal of valor awards ceremony today from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at the California Highway Patrol Academy in West Sacramento.

MUST READ: California Democratic activists want Trump’s head, but leaders bat down impeachment calls.

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