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Immigrant Health Care Bill Passes Senate

Jun 2, 2015

Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) is the author of SB 4, which would expand health care to many - but not all - Californians living in the state illegally.
Credit Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Many – but not all – of the people living in California illegally would be able to obtain health insurance under a scaled-back proposal that’s cleared the state Senate. Ben Adler has more from Sacramento.

Democratic Senator Ricardo Lara’s bill is less comprehensive – and less expensive – than previous versions. But, he told senators, this would be a vote they would remember.

Lara: “I respectfully ask for your aye vote on behalf of the 2 million undocumented Californians that work, toil in our fields, clean your hotel rooms, take care of your babies and provide much-needed support for your families.”

The amended bill would extend Medi-Cal coverage to all income-eligible children – and as many adults as the state budget could afford. It would also ask the federal government to allow undocumented immigrants to enroll in Covered California if they can do it without taxpayer subsidies.

Most Republicans voted no – not because they’re anti-immigrant, they said, but because Medi-Cal doesn’t have enough doctors for its existing patients. Senator Janet Nguyen abstained from the vote but recalled her own experience on Medi-Cal:

Nguyen: “I was in that situation. And we’re wrong that we’re making promise we cannot keep for these children and families.”

Many lawmakers want to increase Medi-Cal provider rates – but Governor Jerry Brown is worried about the cost. Cost is also why Brown has indicated he’ll likely veto health care for undocumented immigrants – even as the bill now moves from the Senate to the Assembly.