Undocumented Immigration In California

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Immigrant Health Care Bill Passes Senate

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) is the author of SB 4, which would expand health care to many - but not all - Californians living in the state illegally.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Many – but not all – of the people living in California illegally would be able to obtain health insurance under a scaled-back proposal that’s cleared the state Senate.

Democratic Senator Ricardo Lara’s bill is less comprehensive – and less expensive – than previous versions. But, he told senators, this would be a vote they would remember.

“I respectfully ask for your aye vote on behalf of the two million undocumented Californians that work, toil in our fields, clean your hotel rooms, take care of your babies and provide much-needed support for your families,” Lara said as he introduced his bill on the Senate floor.

The amended bill would extend Medi-Cal coverage to all income-eligible children – and as many adults as the state budget could afford. It would also ask the federal government to allow undocumented immigrants to enroll in Covered California if they can do it without taxpayer subsidies.

Most Republicans voted no – not because they’re anti-immigrant, they said, but because Medi-Cal doesn’t have enough doctors for its existing patients. Senator Janet Nguyen abstained from the vote but recalled her own experience on Medi-Cal:

“I was in that situation,“ she said. “And we’re wrong that we’re making promises we cannot keep for these children and families!”

Senator Andy Vidak was one of two Central Valley Republicans who joined all Democrats in supporting the measure. But he did so while echoing the access concern of many of his fellow Republicans.

“You can have all the insurance cards in the world, but if there are no doctors to see you, those cards are worthless,” Vidak said.

Many lawmakers want to increase Medi-Cal provider rates – but Governor Jerry Brown is worried about the cost. Cost is also why Brown has indicated he’ll likely veto health care for undocumented immigrants – even as the bill now moves from the Senate to the Assembly.

Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio