Legislative Package Would Extend Health Coverage to Undocumented
On Tuesday, Democratic California lawmakers are expected to introduce a 10-bill legislative package that would extend health coverage, among other protections, to undocumented immigrants in the state, the AP/Washington Times reports.
According to the AP/Times, the legislative package is in response to slow-moving federal immigration reform (Lin, AP/Washington Times, 4/7).
In November 2014, President Obama announced a plan to allow up to five million undocumented immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for at least five years and who have no record of felony offenses or serious misdemeanors to apply for a program to avoid deportation. In addition, Obama expanded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
The DACA program grants undocumented children legal status and authorization to work in the U.S. for two-year periods.
However, several states sued to stop Obama's plans, and a federal judge in Texas ordered a temporary injunction (California Healthline, 3/26). California is one of 14 states and Washington, D.C., that has filed a brief in support of lifting the injunction (AP/Washington Times, 4/7).
Although Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act bars coverage for undocumented immigrants, a caveat in California allows those with "deferred action status" to gain coverage.
Under federal law, undocumented immigrants still are not eligible for health benefits through the ACA's exchanges (California Healthline, 3/26).
Details of Health Care Provisions in Planned Legislative Package
According to the AP/Times, the charge to expand health coverage to undocumented immigrants will be led by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles).
The legislative package will include SB 4, by state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), which would give undocumented immigrants access to:
- Medi-Cal coverage; and
- Subsidized health coverage through a newly created insurance exchange.
Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.
SB 4 stalled in a legislative committee last session after lawmakers failed to find funding to cover its estimated $1.3 billion a year cost. According to the AP/Times, the legislative package also does not include funding plans for the coverage expansion.
Other Legislative Package Details
In addition to health care, the legislative package seeks to expand undocumented immigrants' legal rights and business protections.
For example, the package includes:
- A bill to bar businesses from discriminating against individuals based on their immigration status, language or citizenship;
- Measures to create an agency to assist and protect newly arrived immigrants, as well as offer legal protections from detention and deportation;
- SB 600, by state Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), which would expand civil rights protections to undocumented immigrants in the state; and
- SB 674 by Sens. de León and Atkins, which would allow immigrants who are victims of crime to apply for the federal Victim of Crime Visa.
According to The AP/Times, the California Democrats have said the package is part of an effort to remove undocumented immigrants from the "state's economic shadows."
However, state Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) has questioned the state's ability to fund the effort.
Huff said, "We understand the burdens facing immigrants who want to go to work and raise their families in safe neighborhoods, and the rationale behind these bills is admirable," adding, "But without money from Congress and President Obama, it will be very difficult and costly for California taxpayers to fund all of these bill proposals" (AP/Washington Times, 4/7).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.