Politics & Government

California senator unveils bill to give health care to undocumented immigrants

A plan to provide undocumented immigrants in California access to subsidized health care has been spelled out in Senate Bill 1005 by Sen. Ricardo Lara, a Democrat from Bell Gardens.

Undocumented immigrants are excluded from the federal Affordable Care Act that is offering legal residents the ability to purchase health insurance through government-run marketplaces.

Lara’s bill would create two avenues for Californians who are in the country illegally to seek health care. The state would expand Medi-Cal to include undocumented immigrants whose incomes are under 138 percent of the poverty level – about $32,000 a year for a family of four. And for undocumented immigrants who make more than that, the state would create a marketplace to sell insurance products.

The marketplace would be similar to Covered California – the state’s exchange that was created to sell insurance under the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

The bill does not spell out a cost for California to extend health insurance to undocumented immigrants.

“We are doing the number crunching now,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of the Health Access advocacy group that is supporting Lara’s bill.

He said the goal is to provide health insurance for roughly 3 million Californians who don’t have health insurance and cannot get it under the federal health program because of their immigration status.

“The idea under this bill is to extend the same level of help that the Affordable Care Act provides but to all Californians,” Wright said. “It’s about fairness and inclusion for all Californians.”

Currently some California counties provide health care to undocumented immigrants, but the offerings vary greatly among counties.