Health care

California withdraws request to let illegal immigrants buy Obamacare insurance

Reuters White House correspondent discusses possible replacement health care plans Trump may pursue

 

California officials withdrew a request Wednesday to let illegal immigrants buy unsubsidized insurance policies after learning the decision would fall to President-elect Donald Trump’s administration.

State Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, called the move “the first California casualty of the Trump presidency.” Lara added that he didn’t trust the incoming administration to protect people’s privacy and health.

“I take Trump at his words that anyone is subject to deportation at any time, and California will not be part of a wasteful and inhumane campaign against immigrants who are working hard and playing by the rules,” Lara’s statement said.

Lara drew up the legislation seeking to waive a federal requirement that Covered California exchange only do business with citizens and legal U.S. residents. The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services notified Covered California’s executive director Tuesday that there would be a one-month public comment period and a 180-day window to make the final decision.

"California is committed to a healthier future for all, and we will continue to seek ways to expand health coverage even as Republicans in Washington move to take it away," Lara said in a statement, referring to GOP efforts to repeal President Barack Obama's health care law.

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It's unclear how many immigrants could afford the unsubsidized premiums, which can cost hundreds of dollars per month for basic coverage. Immigrants without legal status currently can buy the health coverage through an insurance agent. The bill's supporters say more would likely sign up through the Covered California website, in part because of the millions of dollars in advertising and enrollment assistance the agency funds each year.

Most immigrants living in the U.S. illegally have family members who are citizens or legal residents and would be eligible for coverage from Covered California, Lara has said. The bill would be especially beneficial to those "mixed-status" families, who would be able to shop for coverage together online.

Critics of Lara's legislation said it was a distraction for lawmakers who should have been focused on problems affecting U.S. citizens.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.