SACRAMENTO – After hearing heart-rending testimonials from three young undocumented immigrants who have seen first hand the havoc caused by not having access to health care, the Senate Health Committee yesterday voted 7-0 to provide health care to all Californians, regardless of their immigration status. The committee also witnessed wide-ranging support from representatives of more than 30 health care, labor, education and immigrant advocacy organizations.
The vote went along party lines, with all seven Democrats on the committee supporting SB 4, the Health for All bill sponsored by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, with the two Republicans on the committee, Senators Janet Nguyen, R-Garden Grove, and Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, abstaining.
Committee chair Sen. Edward Hernandez, D-West Covina, said before the vote was taken that he was convinced that every immigrant in the United States deserved access to health care. California, he agreed with Lara, should take the leadership role in making this happen.
Like Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, before him, Hernandez said he too would like to be added as a co-author to SB 4.
Lara’s bill would allow low-income immigrant families in California to get regular medical care through the state’s health insurance program for low-income people called Medi-Cal (Medicaid in the rest of the nation). The bill would also allow undocumented immigrants whose incomes are above the Medi-Cal eligibility limit to purchase insurance through Covered California, the state’s online marketplace set up under the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Undocumented immigrants are currently excluded from purchasing health care through state exchanges.
Lara said he’s been working with officials in Washington, D.C., on a federal waiver to allow undocumented immigrants to purchase insurance on the state’s exchange, Covered California. If that fails, he said, a provision in his bill would allow the state to set up a separate exchange to provide undocumented immigrants equivalent coverage.
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