California considers private health insurance for immigrants

Health insurance - Immigration - United States

The state has yet to determine if such a strategy can be achieved affordably for the demographic.

Though many Californians whose income is too high to be eligible for Medi-Cal can receive subsidized health insurance through Covered California, an estimated 460,000 residents without legal status can’t purchase coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s state-run plans.

Some lawmakers are seeking to create a bill to help close that gap for those uninsured Californians.

“We’re going to need to figure out how to provide universal coverage for all who call this state home,” said Assembly member Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno), the author of the health insurance bill. “It’s an area our state has not leaned into enough, to provide coverage for those who are undocumented.”

Health insurance - Person offering form

This bill would have the state requesting permission from the federal government to offer coverage plans through Covered California to undocumented immigrants. According to Arambula, this step is a vital first in a much broader effort for expanding coverage. Should the bill be approved, the lawmaker plans to continue forward in seeking subsidies from the state to help pay for that coverage.

Both components are central to providing health insurance coverage to immigrants without legal status.

According to Health Access California policy and legislative advocate Jose Torres Casillas, both the permission from the federal government and the subsidies from the state are central to ensuring that undocumented immigrants can afford coverage. The group is working with Arambula’s office to move the measure forward.

“Access is one thing, but affordability is another,” said Torres Casillas.

California Governor Newsom has made it a goal to broaden Medi-Cal’s reach since he first took office in 2019. He has been seeking to ensure that all qualified residents would be able to access the coverage, no matter what their immigration status might be. However, a $22.5 billion state deficit was announced by Newsom in January, who did not take that time to address any new proposals for covering the estimated 3 million Californians who are currently uninsured.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of the California Health & Human Services Agency, recently acknowledged that there is pressure to move ahead with insurance coverage for more state residents, but did not provide a timeline for such moves.

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