#Health4All Waiver Approved in Senate with Bipartisan Support, Advances to Governor Brown

June 02, 2016

SACRAMENTO, CA – An historic measure authored by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) was approved in a bipartisan vote of 27 to 8 today and now heads to Governor Jerry Brown for consideration. Senate Bill 10, known as the #Health4All Waiver, will remove barriers to the health insurance market by directing the state to seek permission from the federal government to allow undocumented Californians to purchase their own health insurance through the Covered California Health Insurance Exchange. The #Health4All Waiver is approved two weeks after California became the state with the largest immigrant population to provide full-scope health coverage to all low-income children, regardless of immigration status.

“It is immoral to discriminate against anyone based on where they were born,” said Senator Lara. “This bill presents an 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. It presents an opportunity for us to show bipartisan support for a common sense proposal of expanding health care coverage. Enrolling people in comprehensive coverage is not only a more humanitarian approach, it’s also more cost effective to ensure people have access to preventive care and wellness programs and receive treatment before their condition becomes more severe and more costly.”

Millions of Californians have benefitted from health care reform through expanded Medi-Cal access and from coverage purchased through the Covered California exchange, however, the undocumented community has been excluded. Section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act provides for “waivers for state innovation” which allow states to modify how they implement key elements of health reform, beginning in 2017. 1332 waivers provide a way for states to pursue their own approaches to expand coverage, including alternatives that would represent a significant departure from the ACA’s standards and requirements.

Since federal law prohibits undocumented Californians from even purchasing their own insurance through Covered California, SB 10 directs the state to apply for a 1332 waiver to allow Covered California to offer alternative insurance products through the exchange to undocumented individuals. Those products would still be required to meet the same requirements as plans currently offered through the exchange.​

Countless organizations have backed the #Health4All movement to expand access to health care for all Californians, regardless of immigration status, of which the #Health4All waiver is a key part.

"California is appropriately leading the way to remove this counterproductive federal exclusion; it is in everyone's interest to connect all Californians with coverage, prevent the health and financial problems that result from Californians being uninsured. This proposal is not just a benefit for working immigrant families to more easily sign up for coverage, but would be a boon for the health system on which we all rely. Our health system and economy is stronger when everyone is included and has access to primary and preventive care and the financial security that comes with coverage." said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. "Beyond the important symbolism of inclusion, this proposal will provide a practical benefit for many California families with mixed immigration status, who will be able to buy coverage together, even if some family members are eligible for subsidies and others are not."

"California continues to lead on immigrant inclusive policies. It's clear from the bi-partisan support SB 10 received, that our state's representatives understand the importance of supporting a common-sense approach that removes an unjust barrier faced by immigrants that seek to review and purchase health plans in Covered California,” said Cynthia Buiza, Executive Director, California Immigrant Policy Center says. “With 1 out of 6 kids in California growing up with at least one undocumented parent, it will be important for all family members to have one portal to search coverage options in our state's marketplace. We believe Governor Brown understands the importance of continuing to make California a beacon for immigrant rights. Therefore, we expect him to support this reasonable measure, which continues building on the recent investment for health for all kids, so eventually no Californian is locked out of health care, simply because of where they were born.”