A California bill that would help illegal immigrants get healthcare coverage faces a key hurdle Monday when it goes for a vote before the state Senate Appropriations Committee. Opponents of the bill, which would help 2.5 million people in California, are balking at the price tag, reports the San Jose Mercury News.
State Senate Bill 4 would let illegal immigrants join Medi-Cal, the state's health insurance program for the poor. If the bill passes the committee, it needs passage in both the Senate and Assembly and then the signature of Gov. Jerry Brown to become law. Opponents of the bill authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara, a Democrat from the heavily Latino Los Angeles suburb of Bell Gardens, say it will hurt the economy. An earlier bill proposed by Lara failed to clear the Appropriations Committee last year because it was forecast to cost the state $1.3 billion, according to the San Jose Mercury News. The newer version bill is reportedly cheaper for the state.
“The numbers are still being worked out, but we’ve brought it down from what we once thought would be $1 billion to close to $400 [million] to $800 million a year,” Lara said in early April, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “It looks like something that’s doable to cover folks.”
The Mercury News reported the price tag could fall anywhere between $174 million to $740 million, depending on whether President Barack Obama's executive order giving 5 million illegal immigrants deportation protection -- an order that is currently blocked in federal court -- takes effect.
The bill would let immigrants who often have no way of receiving healthcare -- outside of free clinics and emergency rooms -- acquire coverage through an exchange. The Medi-Cal coverage for illegal immigrants would be paid for entirely by the state and not split with the federal government -- unlike the people currently covered by Medi-Cal. The Medi-Cal program currently covers one in three Californians, the Mercury News reported, and proponents of the bill are confident the cost to the state is small enough that SB-4 will eventually pass.