A Democratic state senator in California has proposed a bill to allow illegal immigrants access to Medi-Cal, California’s state-funded low-income health-care program. The bill would also create a new health insurance exchange similar to Covered California for illegal immigrants.
The bill, the “Health for All Act,” was proposed by Senator Ricardo Lara of Long Beach and Southeast Los Angeles. Right now illegal immigrants only have access to emergency and pregnancy coverage, according to Kaiser Health News.
California currently has an estimated illegal immigrant population of 2.5 million out of 38 million residents. An estimated one million of those immigrants lack health insurance.
Lara says that offering health insurance to California’s low-income illegal immigrant population will relieve overcrowding in emergency rooms and reduce the cost of health care in California, in part by increasing early diagnosis of problems before the problems become more expensive to treat.
“Excluding people from access to care hurts the overall health of our communities, and does not reflect California values,” Lara said.
The bill, if passed, would be the next in a series of changes in California granting increased privileges and rights to illegal immigrants. In October, Governor Jerry Brown signed a law allowing illegal immigrants to obtain law licenses, even as he vetoed a law allowing non-citizens to serve jury duty. The California Supreme Court later ruled the law granting illegal immigrants the ability to get law licenses constitutional.
In September, the California state assembly voted 55—19 to allow illegal immigrants to receive driver’s licenses. This law will take effect beginning January 1, 2015.
Lara did not specify how much the proposed expansion of Medi-Cal coverage to low-income illegal immigrants will cost California or where the funding for the expansion will come from.
— Alec Torres is a William F. Buckley Fellow at the National Review Institute.