First Test for Bill To Cover Undocumented

Health care coverage for the undocumented gets its first test this week when a bill to extend Medi-Cal coverage and Covered California health plans to the undocumented will be heard by the Senate Health committee.

Activists plan to rally on Monday on the Capitol Building steps to generate a little buzz before Wednesday’s Senate hearing.

A number of legislative efforts to help the undocumented comprise the “Immigrants Shape California” legislative package introduced last week by the Legislature’s leadership. The centerpiece of that package is SB 4 by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens).

The bill would provide Medi-Cal benefits to undocumented Californians who are income-eligible for it and require the state to ask for a federal waiver to include the undocumented in Covered California health plans. The undocumented population currently is ineligible for any state exchange coverage. If federal regulators refuse to include undocumented in California’s exchange, the state would set up a fund to create a similar state-run exchange using the Covered California model.

Funding has not been worked out. The number of people who might use the new exchange or use Medi-Cal coverage also is unknown.

Specific numbers depend, in part, on the fate of the federal executive order issued on Nov. 20, 2014 that expands rights for undocumented adults. The order was put on hold Feb. 17, pending a court ruling.

SB 4 is similar to a bill floated last session by Lara, SB 1005, which stalled in the Senate Appropriations committee.

California counties currently provide health care to the roughly one million undocumented immigrants in the state, but coverage varies widely among counties. The state also offers limited-scope Medi-Cal coverage to the undocumented, but SB 4 would require the state to offer full-scope Medi-Cal benefits instead.

Supporters expect about 200 people at Monday’s march and rally.

Categories: Capitol Desk

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