Bill To Expand Health Coverage in California Gets Mixed Review
Reaction has been mixed to a new bill (SB 1005) that seeks to provide health coverage to undocumented immigrants in California, the Sacramento Bee's "Capitol Alert" reports (Rosenhall, "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 2/14).
Background on Bill
The legislation, proposed by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Long Beach), would create the California Health Exchange Program For All Californians. The program would be similar to a state-funded version of the Medi-Cal system governed by the state's health benefit exchange board. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.
Lara's bill would allow everyone in California with incomes below 138% of the federal poverty level to have access to care, regardless of immigration status (Gorn, "Capitol Desk," California Healthline, 2/18).
Reaction to Bill
Consumer watchdog group Health Access expressed support for the bill and noted that the state could save money by focusing on preventive care for undocumented immigrants.
In a release, Health Access Executive Director Anthony Wright said, "It's cheaper to provide access to primary, preventive care than to treat illnesses after they develop," adding, "By ensuring that Californians have that access, counties can make sure their residents are healthy and contributing economically to their communities" (Robertson, Sacramento Business Journal, 2/14).
Wright noted that the bill will "extend the same level of help" under the Affordable Care Act to all California residents, adding that passing the bill is "about fairness and inclusion for all Californians" ("Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 2/14).
The Coalition for the Human Immigration of Los Angeles also supports the measure. Joseph Villela, director of policy and advocacy at the organization, called the bill a "long shot" but applauded it as "the first official bill that will seek to promote health care for all." Villela added, "If people are given the opportunity to pay for affordable health care, they will" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 2/15).
However, Federation for Immigration Reform spokesperson Ira Mehlman said his group does not support the effort and the bill is not what Congress intended when it passed the ACA.
Mehlman said he is not surprised California is considering such legislation, adding, "There isn't anything [the California Legislature] is not going to give people who are in the country illegally" (MedPage Today, 2/18).
Meanwhile, Steven Wallace of the UCLA School of Public Health expressed concern about the health of undocumented immigrants regardless of the bill's passage. He said the "situation for the undocumented" is not getting better under the ACA and that it could "even get worse" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 2/15).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.