The California Legislature has taken a key step toward extending health insurance to more than a million undocumented immigrants. The bill passed its first committee vote Wednesday 7-0.
The bill would open Medi-Cal – California’s health care program for the poor – to undocumented immigrants. It would also offer them Affordable Care Act coverage without taxpayer subsidies – either through California’s health insurance exchange, if the Obama administration approves, or through a yet-to-be-created exchange. Estimated cost to the state’s general fund: between $400-800 million.
Democrats on the Senate Health Committee unanimously supported the bill, calling it both historic and humane.
“I’m not unmindful of the cost issue here but I think it’s an important issue that we need to solve, and I think in our efforts to drive down the cost of health care, we need to find this money. And we need to do it now,” said Democratic Sen. Richard Roth.
Republicans abstained. “I’m open to the discussion of access to health care for all, because I’m a firm believer in preventive health care. However, I think the state needs to be able to pay for it and take care of the current enrollees while we look at ways to bring in more enrollees,” said GOP Sen. Janet Nguyen.
The measure faces another committee vote before it can move to the full Senate.