Health Care In The States

California Bill Would Extend Health Coverage To All Residents

By Anna Gorman

February 18th, 2014, 5:15 AM


In a push to cover immigrants excluded from the nation’s health reform law, a California state senator has proposed legislation that would offer health insurance for all Californians, including those living here illegally.

The bill would extend state-funded Medi-Cal to low-income immigrants who, because they are in the country without permission,  are now eligible only for emergency and pregnancy coverage. It would also create a marketplace similar to Covered California to offer insurance policies to higher income immigrants who lack legal status.

Sen. Ricardo Lara, a Democrat who represents Long Beach and Southeast Los Angeles, announced the proposed legislation at a press conference Friday. He said immigrants  contribute to the California economy and deserve to have access to health insurance.

“While we’ve made enormous strides to reduce California’s uninsured population with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, we won’t have a truly healthy state until everyone has access to quality, affordable coverage,” he said in a statement.

An estimated 2.3 to 2.6 million immigrants live in California illegally – more than in any other state. About 1 million are believed to be uninsured, while many of the others purchase their own policies or are covered through employer plans.

Currently, those who are uninsured can receive medical care at community and free clinics and in some counties, through public hospitals and health facilities.

Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that opposes illegal immigration, said the proposed legislation is clearly an end-run around what Congress intended under the health law. But Mehlman said the effort didn’t surprise him: The proposal comes just months after the California legislature approved special driver’s licenses for those living here without legal permission.

“There isn’t anything [the California legislature] is not going to give people who are in the country illegally,” he said.

Most of the state’s Medi-Cal recipients receive services paid for by a combination of federal and state funds. The new proposal would be paid for entirely by the state.

Diana Dooley, secretary of the state’s Health and Human Services Agency, has said that California health officials are aware of the need to cover immigrants who lack legal status.  But she said the priority for now is covering people who are eligible for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

It’s not clear how much the new coverage would cost or how the state would fund it. That would depend on how many people came forward. Fear of deportation often keeps people from seeking public services, advocates for immigrants’ rights said.

These advocates and other activists argue that the legislation would lower health care spending in California by enabling immigrants to receive regular check-ups, reducing their reliance on emergency rooms.

They also argue that it could help the state by bringing more families of mixed immigration status out of the shadows.

“Opening the door to all Californians means it’s more likely that those already eligible take advantage of the benefits, bringing more federal dollars into California,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of the consumer group Health Access California.

agorman@kff.org

7 Responses to “California Bill Would Extend Health Coverage To All Residents”

  1. paula says:

    I applaud California. Sick people are sick people. Whether illegal or not, people need healthcare. What moronic political party thinks that just because a person has no health coverage, they aren’t going to seek treatment? Morons who think like that are insane. Dopes who think like that need to spend a day in an inner-city hospital emergency ward and see what happens all day long. Everyone gets treated. It’s the law. Nobody is turned away. Regardless of immigration status, everyone gets uncompensated healthcare. Who pays? You do! The taxpayer gets the bill. Republicans don’t get it. They never will. They just don’t realize that we are all in this together. When uninsured people seek treatment, we all pay the bill. The GOP is filled with dumb people with no solutions. Just complaints. The GOP has this “Us Versus Them” mentality that will never work. The GOP wants to separate society into winners and losers. That concept will never work. When one uninsured person gets sick, we all suffer the consequences.

  2. Legality aside, I also think its great we’re extending the opportunity to find coverage to those who are living here. Although, It seems like these people are able to obtain services whether overed or not covered. Since, the costs they incur are passed along to everyone else when they aren’t covered, and they costs they incur are passed along to everyone else when they are covered; it seems like the winners here will be the doctors and hospitals, and the state of California via federal dollars. I suppose the uninsured are winners too, assuming they are able to join and not be deported.

  3. This is a great deal! Growers, sweatshop operators, and others that knowingly commit crimes by hiring illegal aliens will be able to pass even more of their costs on to everyone else. MX’s elites will also profit (literally). They’ll get to send people they don’t want to take care of north, avoiding reforms and getting even more money sent back. It’s also a great deal for racial power advocates.

    It’s not such a great deal for everyone else, like taxpayers and struggling American workers. But, what liberal cares about them anymore?

  4. Jake says:

    “Legality aside?” That seems like a bad precedent to set.

  5. Scot Park says:

    Want to discuss healthcare public policy in real time?
    Please take a moment to review:

    http://www.artoweradvisory.com/upload.asp?filename=HCPolicy%20Invitation%20Flier%20~%2002%2014.pdf

  6. K says:

    “The GOP is filled with dumb people with no solutions. Just complaints. The GOP has this “Us Versus Them” mentality that will never work. The GOP wants to separate society into winners and losers.”

    The GOP this! The GOP that! Paula, all your argument has illustrated is that YOU, in fact, are cultivating an “us versus them” mentality, where “us” is only those who share your exact opinions and “them” is the entire republican party. Thanks for that. As a member of that party (a “dumb person with no solutions”), I have no qualms about agreeing with a few of your above comments. You’re right: sick people are sick people, and whether or not they are insured they will end up in emergency rooms, and hospitals will absorb that cost. Healthcare costs will rise, and yes, taxpayers will end up paying for it in the end. I’m all for getting people insurance.
    What I’m not such a big fan of is the idea of incentivizing illegal entrance into the United States. I live in an Arizona border town, and I see it weekly: people die trying to cross our deserts and get into this country illegally. But now what: we’re incentivizing that they make the journey, because at the other end of it they’ll be handed health coverage (and a drivers liscense, of all things?) No, that’s preposterous.
    We need to de-incentivize people from trying to make that journey (it is INCREDIBLY dangerous), and instead make it easier for people to become American citizens through legal means. Currently the process takes years: let’s expedite that process, and offer insurance and drivers liscenses to immigrants only AFTER they’ve entered our nation through proper legal chanels.

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