Gov. Brown Signs Bill Helping Undocumented Immigrants Purchase Health Insurance

On August 1, 2016 By Tevis

“Today we ask the federal government to remove another barrier to health insurance access that discriminates against some of our residents on the basis of their documentation status.” –California State Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens)

Governor Jerry Brown has recently signed a bill that can help undocumented immigrants of California purchase health insurance through the Covered California Health Insurance Exchange.

The Affordable Care Act excludes undocumented immigrants from purchasing health insurance but Senate Bill 10, authored by State Senator Ricardo Lara, was written in order for the State to apply for a waiver from the federal government in which Covered California would be allowed to sell health insurance to undocumented immigrants in California.

Through Senate Bill 10, the State will formally ask the Federal Government to allow undocumented immigrants to buy insurance through Covered California with the promise that doing so will not incur costs to the state, as well as to the federal government.

California is the first state to take such action in allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for coverage. In a press release, Senator Lara expressed that California has a role in expanding health coverage even to those who are staying in the State illegally.

“This bill presents a historic opportunity for California to become the first state in the nation to request a federal waiver to allow the exchange to sell health insurance to undocumented immigrants,” said Senator Lara in the press release.

SB 10 not enough: UC Berkeley report says

Around 390,000 undocumented immigrants are foreseen to be able to purchase health insurance thanks to Senate Bill 10.

A report from UC Berkeley suggests that as much as one and a half million undocumented immigrants will remain uninsured even with SB 10. The bill will ask for permission to sell insurance to undocumented immigrants but those who are low-income would still be unable to purchase because they will not qualify for the subsidies.  This part of the population of undocumented immigrants will still find it difficult to obtain coverage for the cost would remain a problem for them.

Currently, undocumented immigrants (except those aged 18 and below) can only acquire health insurance through their jobs or through private market.

An estimated 2.6 million people (or approximately 7 percent of California’s population) are undocumented immigrants.

California: Promoting immigrant-friendly policies

In October 2015, Governor Brown also signed into law the expansion of state-subsidized Medi-Cal coverage to undocumented immigrants who are 18 years old and below. Senator Lara also authored this bill.

Critics of these immigrant-friendly policies exclaim that these actions promote illegal immigration, and at the same time, take resources away from those who are residing in California legally. According to reports, more than $600 million was spent by the State on emergency room and other health services for undocumented immigrants.