State Advisory Commission Recommends Immediate Access to Health Care for Immigrants
An 89-page report from the state's Little Hoover Commission -- an independent, bipartisan government advisory committee -- to Gov. Gray Davis (D) and the Legislature recommends that lawmakers establish a program that would allow legal and undocumented immigrants to have immediate access to health care and other social services, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. In return for immediate access to the services, participants in the Golden State Residency Program would agree to learn English, obtain employment or participate in an employment training program, pay taxes and participate in "some sort of civic activity." California has about two million undocumented immigrants. According to the report, California has "plenty of public programs. But eligibility rules (from one to the other) are not consistent or aligned to a specific set of goals." Eric Schockman, head of the commission, added that the proposed program would "eliminate inconsistent policies in federal and state law" (Hendrix, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/19).
A provision in the 1996 federal welfare reform act prevents enrollment in Medicaid and other public assistance programs for new immigrants in their first five years in the United States. However, states can "offer some or all Medicaid coverage to some or all new legal immigrants ... at their own expense" (Newman, Wall Street Journal, 8/29/01). Mark Silverman, director of immigration policy at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center in San Francisco, said, "What I like about (the proposal) is that it couples rights with responsibilities. ... [W]e're talking about recognizing and rewarding for contributions to our economy, not drains to the economy." However, Ira Mehlman, a spokesperson for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said that undocumented immigrants should not receive benefits. "We believe that if you haven't obeyed the law, you should not be entitled to all the benefits as everybody else," Mehlman said. Russ Lopez, a Davis spokesperson, said that the governor has not reviewed the report (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/19). The report is available online.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.