Considered to be a trailblazing law, the signing of Senate Bill 10 by Gov. Jerry Brown on June 10 was applauded by health advocates organizations statewide.
The historic legislation, also known as the #Health4All Waiver and authored by Senator Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, would allow undocumented immigrants in Californians to access the state health insurance marketplace by removing barriers to Covered California.
The legislation would direct the state to seek permission from the federal government to allow undocumented immigrants in the state to buy unsubsidized health insurance through Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange.
“Today we ask the Federal government to remove barriers to health insurance access that discriminates against some of our residents on the basis of their documentation status,” said Lara, who thanked Gov. Brown for his leadership. “The current policy disallowing immigrants from purchasing care with their own money is both discriminatory and outdated.”
Under the Affordable Care Act, undocumented immigrants in the United State are excluded from obtaining health care coverage through the state or federal health insurance exchanges.
“Governor Brown’s signature of this bipartisan bill is recognition that our health system is stronger when everyone is included,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition.
Wright hopes the state will move quickly in submitting the application to remove the ACA exclusion and hopes it’s approved quickly by the federal government.
“This proposal is not just a benefit for working immigrant families to more easily sign up for coverage, but helps the health and financial vitality of the entire community,” Wright said. “Beyond the important symbolism of inclusion, this waiver application will provide a practical benefit for many California families with mixed immigration status, who will be able to buy coverage together easily, even if some family members are eligible for financial assistance and others are not.”
Brown’s the enactment of historic bill makes California the first state in the country to request the federal 1332 waiver from the Obama Administration which would allow states to modify how they implement key elements of the health care reform beginning in 2017.
The 1332 waivers allow states to pursue their own approaches to expand health coverage to its population.
However, since the ACA excludes undocumented from buying their own insurance, SB10, now directs the state to apply for the waiver to allow Covered California to offer alternative health plans through the exchange to undocumented individuals. If the federal government grants permission, undocumented Californians buying coverage through the exchange would remain ineligible for public subsidies.
“Our great state has taken another crucial step towards giving all Californians access to health care, regardless of immigration status,” said Dr. Robert K. Ross, president and CEO of The California Endowment and former Covered California Board Member.
Ross applauded Brown’s leadership for helping California continue to lead on social justice issues that impact the state’s immigrant population.
“We join advocates in celebrating this victory and remain committed to supporting efforts towards a statewide solution for quality, affordable health coverage for all Californians,” Ross said.
The legislation received strong bipartisan support in both the Senate and Assembly.
“The passage of SB10 corrects a longstanding injustice in our health care system by giving thousands of hardworking young people and young families in California the ability to purchase quality coverage,” said Gustavo Herrera, Western Regional Director for Young Invincibles. “Mixed status families fare better when they are able to shop around and purchase health insurance together.”
Herrera thanked the efforts of young activists, supporters, and leaders like Gov. Brown and Senator Lara to make the legislation possible.
“Today we move closer to achieving health care for all people, regardless of their immigration status,” Herrera said.
Last month, California became the state with the largest immigrant population to provide full-scope Medi-Cal health coverage to all low-income children, regardless of their immigration status.