Famed rapper and entrepreneur 50 Cent lambasted the state of California for its policy to provide free healthcare to illegal immigrants, questioning the fiscal and ethical reasoning behind such a decision. “WTF? This is going to cost 2.6 billion dollars for taxpayers,” he wrote in disbelief.
California, already grappling with a $68 billion deficit, is treading new territory as it expands its Medi-Cal health insurance program to cover all eligible illegal immigrants, irrespective of age. The expansion, which first included children and young adults, and later those over 50, now encompasses all illegal adults, a decision that has sparked a heated debate.
50 Cent, whose given name is Curtis James Jackson III, is not alone in his astonishment. The policy, initiated under Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom, has raised eyebrows for prioritizing illegal immigrants over other groups in need, such as veterans.
“They don’t even give veterans health insurance,” 50 Cent pointed out.
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50 Cent’s outspoken criticism of California’s policy reflects concerns about the state’s spending priorities and the potential impact on taxpayers. The rapper’s comments have resonated with many who see California’s new policy as a misallocation of funds.
The state has steadily expanded access to its Medi-Cal health insurance program for low-income residents, first allowing the children of illegal aliens to qualify for the taxpayer-funded program in 2015, then expanding it under Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom to cover undocumented adults aged 19 to 25, as well as those over 50.
California has now become the first to provide free health care to all qualified individuals, regardless of immigration status or age, on January 1.
In May, Democrats in the California Legislature welcomed the budget agreement reached by Newsom and state lawmakers that resulted in the current Medi-Cal expansion, which would provide full coverage to 700,000 illegal immigrants aged 26 to 49.
“This historic investment speaks to California’s commitment to health care as a human right,” state Sen. María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles) said at the time.
“This is a game-changer,” said Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles).“It’s one of the most important pieces of legislation that’s gonna go through this house because the ability to give health care means the ability to live life without pain.”
Some healthcare analysts, however, are concerned that extending the program is risky given enormous state funding gaps and healthcare shortages.
“The expansion was a bad idea when the state’s coffers were flush. Now that California is struggling to make ends meet, using taxpayer money to cover non-citizens is simply irresponsible,” Sally Pipes, a health care policy expert and the president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute, a California-based think tank, told The New York Post.
“Many on Medi-Cal are already having a hard time finding doctors to treat them because of low reimbursement rates these doctors receive from the government,” Pipes added. “If those on Medi-Cal can find a doctor, they are facing very long waits for care.”
The California Senate Republican Caucus has also condemned the plan’s expansion.
“Medi-Cal is already strained by serving 14.6 million Californians – more than a third of the state’s population. Adding 764,000 more individuals to the system will certainly exacerbate current provider access problems,” the caucus wrote in response to Newsom’s budget proposal last year.
The latest Medi-Cal expansion is estimated to cost at least $2.6 billion per year.