Some Lawmakers Seek Care for Undocumented Immigrants
SomeÂ California lawmakers are promoting a plan that would use an estimated $700 million in county savings from the Medi-Cal expansion to offer basic health care services to undocumented immigrants, the Sacramento Bee reports.
California's Low Income Health Program is an optional federal program that offers health coverage to uninsured legal residents in preparation for a Medi-Cal expansion under the Affordable Care Act.
In 2014, individuals receiving care through LIHP will become eligible for Medi-Cal, and their health care will be fully paid for by the federal government for three years. The shift will save counties about $1.4 billion (Sanders, Sacramento Bee, 4/19).
Under the Affordable Care Act, undocumented immigrants are excluded from new coverage opportunities, including state health insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansions. Lawful immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for less than five years may participate in health insurance exchanges and obtain subsidies if income-qualified, but in many states do not qualify for Medicaid (California Healthline, 3/13).
Details of Immigrant Health Care Plan
A plan promoted by some state lawmakers would use about $700 million of the estimated county savings from the Medi-Cal expansion to open LIHP to about one million undocumented immigrants and an estimated two million legal residents who cannot afford to purchase health insurance next year.
Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) said that LIHP is "pretty much going to be an empty vessel that can be utilized to serve this unique population."
Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg said that he strongly supports the idea of improving health care services for undocumented immigrants. He said, "I think that people who are living in this country, working hard and pursing (citizenship) ought to be able to care for themselves and their loved ones."
Daniel Zingale -- a senior vice president for the California Endowment -- said there is growing recognition that undocumented immigrants contribute to the state's economy and workforce.
However, Barbara Coe of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform said that the proposal "will hurt law-abiding citizens by taking money from them to fund the health care of criminals" (Sacramento Bee, 4/19).
Toby Douglas -- director of the state Department of Health Care Services -- said that Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has not taken a public position on the plan and thatÂ the governor'sÂ fiscal year 2013-2014 budget proposal does not include such a provision. In addition, Douglas said the federal government would not subsidize the plan (AP/U-T San Diego, 4/20).Brown's budget proposal seeks to use the estimated $700 million in savings to reduce state obligations (Sacramento Bee, 4/29). 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.