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Proposal To Help Residually Uninsured Narrowly Passes Health Committee

The Assembly Committee on Health yesterday approved a bill designed to help meet the health care needs of uninsured workers.

AB 175 by Assembly member V. Manuel Pérez (D-Coachella) is an effort aimed at all uninsured Californians and for all levels of immigration status, but it primarily was designed to make sure health care is available to non-citizen, rural Latino farmworker families.

“We want to work to make sure that every Californian has health care available to them,” Pérez said. “This creates a mechanism to help fund that.” 

The bill would set up a trust fund, to be administered by the Department of Health Care Services, which would be funded by voluntary contributions from employers of workers without health insurance.

Pérez cited estimates that three million to four million Californians will remain uninsured after full implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Approximately one million Californians without immigration documents are excluded from ACA coverage.

Opposition to the bill came from Dave Puglia, vice president of the Western Growers Association, who said he agrees with the intent of the bill but worries it could spell trouble for employers.

“Unfortunately, the mechanism here necessarily requires employers to admit they knowingly hired someone who is undocumented and that puts us directly in conflict with federal law,” Puglia said. “We have a jeopardy situation for employers.”

Pérez said that isn’t necessarily the case. “The bill doesn’t reference an undocumented worker, but uncovered workers,” he said. “We don’t want to move in the direction where we’re making this a mandate. As we move forward, discussions will go on about the funding mechanism.”

The bill needed 10 votes to pass, and it moved on an 11-5 vote. It now heads to the Assembly Committee on Appropriations.

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