The chairman of the California Legislative Latino Caucus plans to propose a new law that would expand access to health insurance for all Californians, including those living in the country illegally.
State Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, is working with a broad coalition of organizations to map out the details of a bill that would cover undocumented immigrants, who are excluded from insurance coverage under the national Affordable Care Act, or ACA.
Immigration status shouldnt bar individuals from health coverage, especially since their taxes contribute to the growth of our economy, Lara said in a news release.
While immigration reform is stalled in Washington, D.C., California last year passed a slew of new laws to help and protect immigrants, including those who crossed into the U.S. illegally or who allowed their visas to expire.
We made historic progress with the passage of AB 60 providing drivers licenses to undocumented residents, AB 1024 which allows Dreamers who pass the bar exam to pursue a legal profession, and the Trust Act, Lara said. Now its time to extend the most basic right of access to health care for everyone.
The specifics of Laras bill have not yet been settled, according to several advocates working with him.
Right now, were still trying to figure out what it would look like, said Ronald Coleman, spokesman for the Sacramento-based California Immigrant Policy Center, which works to develop and support pro-immigrant public policy.
"We can learn from models coming out of the ACA and develop coverage to the undocumented through expansion of state public programs and a state exchange that could mirror Covered California, Coleman said.
Xavier Morales, executive director of the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, applauded the concept of ensuring health coverage for all the states residents: This is bold. Its visionary.
Vaughn Becht, president of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, which opposes illegal immigration, had another take.
Why should the people of any nation pay, through their taxes, health care for people who are here illegally and who broke the law. We cant pay the bills for everyone who crossed the border from wherever, Becht said. It doesnt make any sense.
People who live in the U.S. illegally can buy health insurance but many dont either because of the cost or the application process, which asks for information like Social Security numbers. In California, almost half of the states estimated 2.6 million undocumented immigrants have health insurance under employer programs, Coleman said. A new program would cover about a million residents, he said.
There are limited programs for undocumented residents in California, said Vanessa Cajina, legislative advocate for the Western Center on Law and Poverty in Sacramento. Pregnant women, for example, are eligible for services up to 60 days following birth, she said.
The range of services for undocumented immigrants depends on where they live, with disparities between counties, according to a November report by the Health Access Foundation.
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This article in a nutshell is a warning to other states' voters about giving the DemRats a super majority.