Health care for the undocumented

Health care for the undocumented


Sacramento, CA

The Affordable Care Act prohibits undocumented immigrants from enrolling in health insurance exchanges. And yet, last Friday Governor Jerry Brown signed a measure that could change that here in California.

SB10 authorized the state to formally ask the federal government to allow immigrants without documentation to buy insurance through Covered California without any cost to the state or federal government. California becomes the first state in the nation to officially ask for this consideration.

Currently, undocumented residents are not eligible to buy health coverage through the marketplace nor are they eligible for premium tax credits or any other benefits offered through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 

Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) who wrote the bill thanked Governor Brown for signing the legislation. “The current policy disallowing immigrants from purchasing care with their own money is both discriminatory and outdated,” he said. “I thank Governor Brown for advancing justice today.”

However, there is no guarantee the Obama administration will risk approving the waiver during this turbulent election cycle.  The president’s hoped for approval of the waiver might be further hindered by the repeated promises he made during the epic battle to pass the legislation that the exchanges would not be open to those in the country illegally. There is however, a little known window of opportunity that could help make California’s SB10 a reality. 

The ACA included what has been identified as an innovation waiver. It is a provision in the Affordable Care Act that gives states the ability to make changes to the law provided the change(s) meets two criteria. First, the change must extend coverage to more people; and secondly, the changes cannot result in any additional costs to the federal government.  The California measure meets both criteria.

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