- California lawmakers are considering a bill to allow undocumented immigrants to purchase health insurance through the Covered California state health exchange, though they would not be eligible for federal subsidies.
- Some suggest such a law would be more symbolic than practical because few undocumented immigrants would be able or willing to pay full price for premiums.
- If the state goes through with it, the move could set a national precedent, experts suggest.
The bill by state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) already made it through the state Senate in 2015 and is now being considered by the Assembly’s Committee on Health, Kaiser Health News reports. If the bill makes it through the legislature and through Gov. Jerry Brown (D), which experts suggest is reasonably likely, the state then needs federal approval to exempt California from policy disallowing such sales.
Federal approval is conceivable because there would be no federal cost, experts say, though the matter is certainly politically charged and could present further concerns from critics of illegal immigration on the impacts of the ACA.
A separate recent California law set to go into effect in May will allow undocumented children to receive Medi-Cal benefits, possibly paving the way for further action.
Critics of the law note undocumented immigrants can already buy private health plans off the ACA for similar prices as full-cost ACA plans, though supporters suggest they are more likely to go through the exchanges, particularly those in mixed-status families already exposed to the process.
Supporters also say the ACA already allows undocumented patients to get Medicare coverage when coming in through an ER, an expense that could be reduced by providing primary care.