Key Committee Vote Advances Historic Bill to Expand Access to Healthcare for Undocumented Californians

May 28, 2015

SACRAMENTO, CA – A bill to expand access to healthcare for California’s undocumented population cleared a key vote in the California Senate Appropriations Committee today by a vote of 5 to 2. Senate Bill 4 by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) is the first proposal of its kind introduced in the country.  

“Today’s vote represents a historic step forward on the path towards achieving health for all,” said Senator Lara. “The amendments reflect two things: what we can realistically achieve now, and what we hope to achieve in the near future. Ensuring that everyone in California is healthy is what’s right for our state.” 

The bill was amended by the Senate Appropriations Committee to address cost concerns, but preserve the intent of the bill to provide access to healthcare for every person in California, regardless of immigration status. 

The amended version of SB 4 achieves three important goals:

•    Allows undocumented Californians to buy health insurance with their own money through covered California by seeking a waiver.

•    Allows all kids 19 and under to enroll in Medi-Cal, regardless of immigration status. 

•    Expands access to adults 19 and over, regardless of immigration status, by establishing a capped enrollment program through Medi-Cal that will provide services as funding is made available. 

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.

President Obama’s Executive Action to expand the deferred action program is anticipated to have a significant impact on the costs of SB 4, potentially reducing the undocumented, uninsured population in California by almost half.  An estimated 1.25 million undocumented immigrants in California may be eligible for work authorization and relief from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the new Deferred Action for Parents of U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program. The Executive Actions are currently being challenged in court. 

“Providing quality health care to hundreds of thousands of kids in California will be transformational to thousands of families and the health of our state,” added Lara.

The bill will now advance to the full Senate for consideration. 

The following are Senator Lara’s full remarks on SB4 delivered during the May 28 Senate Appropriations Committee hearing:

“The amendments to this bill reflect two things: what we can realistically achieve now, and what we hope to achieve in the near future.
This bill represents an enormous step forward on the path towards achieving health for all.
  
This bill achieves three important goals: 

•    Allows undocumented Californians to buy insurance with their own money through Covered California

•    Establishes a capped enrollment program for the remaining uninsured adults, which will provide Medi-Cal coverage to the extent funding is made available
•    Allows all kids, regardless of immigration status, to enroll in full-scope Medi-Cal coverage

Excluding people from our health care system is wrong, but prohibiting immigrants from even buying insurance from the state exchange with their own money is irrational.  Through a waiver request to the federal government, we can fix that inequity.

The capped enrollment program will establish a means to cover undocumented adults who are income-eligible for medi-cal.  Enrollment will be limited by the amount of funding made available in the state budget.

Providing quality health care to hundreds of thousands of kids in California will be transformational to thousands of families. It’ll be historic. 

Ensuring every kid in California grows up healthy with an opportunity to thrive and succeed is the right thing to do.”