State Sen. Pushes for Insurance for Undocumented Immigrants
On Friday, state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) in a release said he plans to introduce a bill that would give undocumented immigrants in the state greater access to health insurance, AP/UT-San Diego reports (AP/U-T San Diego, 1/11).
According to the Orange County Register, Lara -- chair of the state's Latino Caucus -- is working with several organizations to finalize the bill (Kopetman, Orange County Register, 1/10).
Details of Planned Bill
Because undocumented immigrants are barred from gaining health coverage through the Affordable Care Act, Lara said he is examining alternatives, including:
- Creating a program within or outside of Covered California that would offer state insurance subsidies to undocumented immigrants;
- Further expanding Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program; or
- Implementing a program similar to Healthy Way LA Unmatched, a temporary health insurance program in Los Angeles that does not receive federal funding (McGreevy/Mason, Los Angeles Times, 1/10).
In the release announcing his plan, Lara said, "Immigration status shouldn't bar individuals from health coverage, especially since their taxes contribute to the growth of our economy" (Rosenhall, "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 1/10).
Anthony Wright -- director of Health Access California and a supporter of Lara's initiative -- said, "There is precedent for California to be a leader. There is precedent for California to piggyback on federal programs but take an extra step to expand to additional folks" (AP/Modern Healthcare, 1/11).
However, others remain skeptical about how such a plan would work because Covered California is an ACA entity.
Timothy Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law, said, "If California wanted to set up its own completely independent health care program for undocumented aliens, it could certainly do that ... [b]ut in terms of using Covered California, the exchange that is recognized under federal law as the Affordable Care Act exchange for California, I just don't see how they can do that."
In addition, some observers say the state should not insure undocumented immigrants for financial reasons.
Assembly member Tim Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks) said the state "cannot afford to create another incentive to attract people to come to [the] state illegally in pursuit of taxpayer-subsidized benefits" (Los Angeles Times, 1/10).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.