UC-Berkeley Study Validates Legislation To Insure Undocumented in California

study released yesterday shows modest cost and potentially strong benefit for insuring the undocumented in California.

The findings are considered good news for SB 1005 by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), the “Health For All” bill due to come before the Senate Committee on Appropriations tomorrow. 

The study, a joint effort of the UC-Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education and the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, found that the roughly 700,000 undocumented people living in California could get preventive health coverage next year at a cost to the state of just over $350 million.

That represents a 2% bump in Medi-Cal spending, according to the researchers.

Under the Affordable Care Act, undocumented are excluded from coverage. The Lara bill would extend benefits to the uninsured, theoretically balancing the books to some degree by saving the state money on emergency department and hospitalization costs.

“The proposed Medi-Cal expansion would involve new state spending, but the cost is modest in comparison to the impact on health and coverage, and the policy also produces savings,” the study said.

The study made four main points:

  • Net spending increase for the state would be equivalent to 2% of its Medi-Cal spending, compared to an enrollment increase of 7% in 2015;
  • New spending would be “substantially offset” by an increase in state sales tax revenue from health care insurers and a reduction in county spending on the uninsured population;
  • Spending would increase from between $353 and $369 million in 2015, and eventually grow to between $424 and $436 million by 2019; and
  • Medi-Cal enrollment would add up to 730,000 individuals in 2015, eventually growing to as many as 790,000 people in 2019.

“California would be the first in the nation to make its health insurance program inclusive of all low-income residents and their families, including those who are undocumented,”  said Laurel Lucia, policy analyst at the UCB Labor Center in a written statement.

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