California’s health care exchange is requesting that it be allowed a waiver from ObamaCare regulations in order to allow illegal immigrants to buy insurance on the exchange – which would make California the first state to extend ObamaCare to illegal immigrants.
In a Sept. 30 letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, Covered California’s Executive Director Peter Lee said that the Affordable Care Act has been “tremendously successful” in the state and has cut the rate of uninsured in half.
“While millions of Californians have benefitted from coverage purchased through the Covered California marketplace, certain individuals are prohibited from buying insurance through our state marketplace due to their immigration status,” Lee wrote, before requesting the waiver.
The Affordable Care Act technically bars illegal immigrants from insurance exchanges, but in June Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that allowed the state to apply for a federal waiver to open Covered California to illegal immigrants living in California. The bill’s sponsor said such a waiver would allow 390,000 illegal immigrants to receive health insurance.
However, even if the Obama administration green-lights the waiver, the insurance plans that would be offered – California Qualified Health Plans – would not be subsidized.
The Department for Health and Human Services did not respond to a request for comment from FoxNews.com.
Critics have objected to the plan, saying it is the latest sign the federal government misrepresented the purpose of the law.
“This is the first step in another misrepresentation of the Affordable Care Act,” Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform told US News & World Report in June. “It was sold to the American people on the fact that you wouldn’t have to subsidize health care for illegal immigrants.”
The issue of whether ObamaCare would be available to illegal immigrants was highly contentious in the debate building up to the law’s passage in 2010. In an address to a joint session of Congress in 2009, the president said ObamaCare would not apply to illegal immigrants, to which Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C. shouted “You lie!” Obama immediately responded, “That’s not true. That's not true"
Wilson was heavily criticized for his outburst and later apologized.
FoxNews.com’s Adam Shaw and Fox News’ Lee Ross contributed to this report.