SACRAMENTO, CA —Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) today introduced SB 4 – the Health for All Act of 2015, to expand access to health care coverage for all Californians, regardless of immigration status. The bill continues the Senator’s efforts to address the exclusion of undocumented Californians from the state’s health care exchange.
“Access to health care is a human rights issue and until everyone is included, our work is unfinished,” said Senator Lara. “I look forward to working with a broad coalition of immigrant, health care and legislative advocates to achieve the goal of health for all in the coming year.”
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) specifically excluded undocumented immigrants from insurance coverage provided through the health care exchange known as Covered California. Because of that, over a million undocumented residents lack access to affordable coverage in California. Access to preventive care keeps people healthier by providing regular check-ups and screenings, and early diagnosis of health problems ensures those problems can be treated before they become overly expensive. By ensuring everyone has access to health care, we can improve the health of our entire community, limit the overcrowding of emergency rooms, and reduce the costs of healthcare in California.
The President’s recent executive action on immigration could have a significant impact on the number of people in California without access to coverage. That’s because Californians that are granted deferred action and who meet income and other requirements are eligible to enroll in the state Medi-Cal program.
“Although it’s no substitute for comprehensive immigration reform in Congress, President Obama’s action is a tremendous step forward for our immigrant community, ” said Lara. “But we’ll still have a significant population without access to affordable health care. ”
California has a proud history of integrating immigrants into our communities. Along with the administrative action to include lawful residents in Medi-Cal, Governor Brown and the legislature have worked to provide drivers licenses to ensure drivers are properly educated and insured, and professional licenses to provide a career pathway. And California benefits from those commitments, to the tune of $2.7 billion in annual tax revenues from immigrants in California.
“The Governor has shown tremendous leadership in providing health care coverage to immigrants that qualify for deferred action under the President’s reforms,” said Lara. “Through his action, and the President’s reforms, we have come much closer to achieving the goal of Health for All. Now it’s time for California to step up and finish the job.”
According to the Migration Policy Institute, an estimated 1.2 million Californians will be newly eligible for deferred action under the President’s reforms. Many of those who are eligible may not apply for relief due to the cost, fears of exposing themselves or other family members to government scrutiny, or a lack of information about the program. Others may already have health care coverage through an employer or private insurance. Accurate estimates of how many undocumented Californians will be eligible for Medi-Cal coverage are not yet available.
The bill introduced in the State Senate today declares the intent of the Legislature that all Californians, regardless of immigration status, have access to affordable health coverage and care.