In the record-breaking $220 billion state budget approved by Gov. Kathy Hochul and ratified by the legislature, illegal immigrants aged 65 and above will be allowed to access taxpayer-funded health care, a move opponents believe would encourage the undocumented to flood New York for the benefits. A budget provision permits up to 20,000 senior citizens who are here illegally to qualify for Medicaid, the government-run healthcare program for the poor that serviced around 7 million people during the coronavirus outbreak. To be eligible, a person must earn less than $18,754 per year.
Medicaid is primarily supported by the federal government, with state and local governments contributing as well. However, because federal funds cannot be used to help illegal immigrants, New York will be responsible for the whole $220 million bill to cover elderly undocumented immigrants. State Senator George Borello said, “It’s a slippery slope. New York disincentivizes people from ever becoming citizens. New York blurs the distinction. We should not be rewarding people who are not following the rules.”
Health care analyst at the Empire Center for Public Policy Bill Hammond stated, “This is new territory. Part of the problem with undocumented people is they don’t have documents. They’re living off the grid to an extent.” It’s estimated that 700,000 illegal immigrants live in New York State.
Hochul has not indicated if restrictions will be put in place for illegal residents to qualify for Medicaid coverage, such as staying in New York or the United States for a particular amount of time. However, the present state Health Department rule for Medicaid beneficiaries has a lenient residence requirement. An applicant just has to demonstrate that he or she currently lives in New York State.