Thirty-five California counties are now allowing immigrants who entered the country illegally access to free health care coverage, joining 12 other counties that have already assumed the practice.
The County Medical Services Program, a state-run organization that is centered in Northern California, will manage the program for the 35 counties coming onboard, which are largely rural areas of the state. On June 25, the panel voted in favor of providing free health care to those in the country illegally and acknowledging the significant change this will bring the state.
“Even if these are not the most populated counties, for this to be available in nearly half of the geography of California is an important step,” Anthony Wright, the executive director of Health Access California, said about the panel’s approval.
The counties Wright was referring to — Sonoma, Solano, Marin and Yolo — are relatively small in population compared to the state’s major counties, such as Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco. Imperial County, in Southern California, is also mentioned as one of the 35 counties joining the program, the Los Angeles Times reported.
A supervisor in Yolo County agrees with the new policies, believing it will stop the spread of diseases to other California residents.
“Frankly, it’s just the right thing to do,” Don Saylor, a Yolo County employee, said. “For us to have an underclass that is left out is unconscionable.”
Before the panel vote, state lawmakers were trying to figure out a successful way to provide free health care to the state’s reported 2.7 million immigrants who entered the country illegally. Under the Affordable Care Act, immigrants without the right to live in the country are not allowed to apply for any federally run health care exchange.
Earlier in June, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed the state’s budget which granted free health care to children of immigrants who came to the country illegally, but not the parents themselves. The program is expected to cost between $6 and $9 million over the next two years, but is expected to grow in popularity and cost if the program is successful, The Sacramento Bee noted.