California lawmakers are going to bat for undocumented immigrants in their districts and have requested formal permission from the federal government to allow those without legal papers to purchase health insurance through the state’s healthcare exchange.
Should lawmakers get their way, immigrants who sign up for the state exchange wouldn’t cost California or U.S. taxpayers a dime, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday. It could affect as many as 390,000 immigrants who earn too much money to qualify for Medi-Cal, the state’s low-cost health coverage program offered to children and adults with limited income.
“This proposal affirms our commitment to embrace and integrate our immigrant community, to lead where the federal government has failed and to acknowledge the hard work and sacrifice of a community that contributes billions of dollars to our GDP,” state Sen. Ricardo Lara, a Democrat who authored the bill, said in a statement reported by the Times.
Not everyone is ecstatic about the proposal. We the People Rising, a group that calls for strict enforcement of immigration laws said the measure could encourage people to cross the border into the United States without legal permission. Currently, undocumented immigrants can’t participate in federally funded health insurance programs except when receiving some emergency care, according to the Hastings Center, a nonpartisan bioethics research institute in New York.
“We oppose that [bill] because that encourages illegal immigration,” Robin Hvidston, the executive director of We the People Rising, said. “It sends a message to the world that if you come to our country you will be rewarded.”
California has the largest population of undocumented immigrants in the country, with 2.6 million living in the Golden State, according to estimates in 2010, but it’s not the only state making attempts to keep the demographic healthy. Of the 25 counties in the United States with the largest population of undocumented immigrants, 20 of them have healthcare programs that pay for coverage of low-income immigrants, the Wall Street Journal reported, including counties in Maryland, which have fewer undocumented workers proportionally and a much smaller number.