California Lawmaker Pushes Bill Extending Obamacare To Undocumented Immigrants

A California state lawmaker plans to introduce legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants to have access to government health insurance plans.

The lawmaker, state Sen. Ricardo Lara, a Democrat, said if the current focus of healthcare reform is make sure everyone has access to coverage programs, the millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States cannot be omitted.

“We’ve made enormous strides to reduce California’s uninsured population with the implementation of the [federal] Affordable Care Act, but we won’t have a truly healthy state until everyone has access to quality, affordable coverage,” said Lara, head of the state Latino legislative caucus, in a press release. “Immigration status shouldn’t bar individuals from health coverage, especially since their taxes contribute to the growth of our economy.”

Federal laws preclude undocumented immigrants from many programs – including state insurance ones – that receive federal funding.

The healthcare reform measure, called the Affordable Care Act (ACA), does not allow participation by undocumented immigrants. In California, Covered California, the healthcare exchange that is part of ACA, excludes undocumented immigrants, the Los Angeles Times said.

Lara’s office said in a press release that about a million California residents would be left out of the coverage overhaul because they are undocumented. About another million undocumented immigrants get some form of health care benefits through their place of work, the Times said.

Some of the possible ways undocumented immigrants could get access to health care coverage are expanding Medi-Cal, the state’s plan for low-income people, or through a program linked to Covered California that does not receive federal funding, the Times said.

“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,” said Lara’s press release.

“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.”

Some state Republicans object to Lara's views on allowing undocumented immigrants to get access to government insurance programs.

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks, a candidate for governor, said, "California cannot afford to create another incentive to attract people to come to our state illegally in pursuit of taxpayer-subsidized benefits. It's shameful that … Lara would trade on the plight of those who are ineligible."

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