California Senate OKs Health Coverage For Illegal Immigrants

| by Ethan Brown
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Legislation that would expand health coverage to undocumented immigrants in California passed the state Senate on June 2, now advancing to the California Assembly for consideration.

Senate Bill 4 was voted in the affirmative in a 28 to 11 vote on Tuesday. Pending a federal waiver, the legislation would allow undocumented immigrants to purchase health insurance on the state exchange, the Sacramento Bee reported. Those under the age of 19 would also be allowed to enroll in the state's insurance program, Medi-Cal. A certain number of undocumented adults could also participate in a separate program that provides the same services, if the state budget allows for additional funding.

“We are talking about our friends. We are talking about our neighbors and our families who are denied basic health care in the richest state of this union,” Democratic state Sen. Richard Lara said to state lawmakers about the proposal.

The legislation will cover up to 240,000 minors, with higher-income families also receiving an option to purchase coverage through Covered California if the federal government allows them to do so, Los Angeles Times reported.

Some that oppose the bill, however, have expressed their concerns over increasing health care costs and decreasing efficiency in hospitals.

“If this bill were to be signed into law, it would only serve to exacerbate the problem and not fix it," Republican state Sen. Jeff Stone said. "This bill would only add hundreds of thousands of more patients to the roll with no one to care for them."

Only two Republican state Senators, Andy Vidak and Anthony Cannella, voted with the Democratic majority on the bill.

While the legislation is expected to pass the Assembly, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown has voiced skepticism over the cost of the legislation, which is expected to be near $740 million per year.

The increase in the immigrant population in California -- there are an estimated 2 million undocumented immigrants in the state -- has taken a toll on the state’s economy and resources, experts say.

“Essentially all of California’s rapid population growth has been due to people from other countries and the children of immigrants," Ben Zuckerman, an astrophysics professor at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), said. "The larger the population of California, the more difficult it will be to deal with the effects of the drought."

Zuckerman is referring to the current drought in California, which has been labeled one of the worst in the state's history.

Sources: Los Angeles Times (2), Sacramento Bee

Photo Credit: Neon Tommy/Flickr, David Mason/Flickr