Senate Approves Health Care for Undocumented Residents

The California Senate passed a proposal to expand health care to people living in California without legal immigration status on June 2. The proposal is the first of its kind within the nation.

Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) created the bill, titled Senate Bill 4, which passed through the Senate with a 28 to 11 vote.

The bill proposes allowing undocumented immigrants to purchase health insurance on the state exchange under the United States Affordable Care Act, following the state’s receiving of a federal waiver. The bill also allows California residents under 18 who lack legal immigration status to access full health coverage under the state’s Medi-Cal program.

The measure does not provide a state subsidy for undocumented immigrants, as it does for U.S. citizens and legal residents who qualify based on their income. However, it does make it so that unauthorized immigrants 19 and older who cannot afford health insurance can sign up for a program that would eventually guarantee them full coverage.

“We are talking about our friends, we are talking about our neighbors and our families who are denied basic healthcare in the richest state of this union,” Lara said during the Senate meeting.

An earlier draft of the bill proposed allowing all undocumented immigrants living in California to qualify for Medi-Cal, but Gov. Jerry Brown suggested that the bill would be too expensive. The exact cost of the amended bill is still unknown, but according to Lara’s spokesman Jesse Melgar, they are examining the costs.

The bill will now be sent to the Assembly Rules Committee for approval. The committee is expected to vote on the issue before the end of the state’s legislative session in August. If the bill is passed, it will be sent to the various Assembly health and appropriations committees.