Sen. Ricardo Lara, left, hopes to override provisions of the Affordable Care Act that exclude illegal aliens from from health insurance subsidies. The exclusions were specified as part of the political warring over health care reform.
A majority of the state’s voters support extending current health insurance programs to undocumented immigrants, according to a recent statewide poll.
“Access to health care is a human rights issue and until everyone is included, our work is unfinished,” Lara said upon refiling his legislation — as Senate Bill 4 — on Dec. 1. “I look forward to working with a broad coalition of immigrant, health care and legislative advocates to achieve the goal of health for all in the coming year.”
Lara’s SB 1005 was held in committee last session over concerns about paying for the expansion of services offered by Covered California, the Obamacare operation in state.
Lara cited an improved political climate in the wake of President Obama’s executive action that would allow about 4 million illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. The state senator called that action “a tremendous step forward for our immigrant community” but one that still leaves “a significant population without access to affordable health care.”
“Now it’s time for California to step up and finish the job.”
The measure would guarantee all Californians — “without regard to immigration status” — access to Medi-Cal, private subsidized insurance through Covered California and employer-based coverage.
Supporters of Lara’s plan have cited “painful and hurtful cuts” made in California’s public health services in recent years.
Lara, whose parents were once illegal aliens, cited $2.7 billion in annual tax revenues from immigrants in California.
The poll that found support for the plan among state voters was commissioned by the California Endowment, a foundation that has been actively working to expand health insurance access to all people, regardless of immigration status.
In the California Endowment poll, 54 percent of those surveyed said they support covering the undocumented. Support was strongest among younger voters as well as Latino and African American respondents.
Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access, a consumer advocacy group, said the poll results give “hope and momentum” to efforts to pass a bill next year. “We had a lot of energy and enthusiasm and coalition support last year, and with the findings that this is getting increasing public support, we fell like we have momentum to win this year,” he said.