California Looks to Cover Illegal Immigrants Under Obamacare
Leah Jessen /
In an unprecedented move, California legislators look to extend Obamacare health coverage to the state’s estimated 2.6 million illegal immigrant population.
If passed and signed into law, California would be the first state in the nation to request illegal immigrants be covered through a state exchange, the Los Angeles Times reported.
It is against the law for California to allow illegal immigrants to enroll in Covered California, the state’s Obamacare health insurance exchange, Sally C. Pipes, president and CEO of the pro-free-market Pacific Research Institute, told The Daily Signal in an emailed response.
“The law does not allow illegals to enroll in the state exchanges or the federal exchange Healthcare.gov,” Pipes said.
California state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, authored legislation, SB 10, that requests the federal government give Covered California permission to cover illegal immigrants.
Under the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, health care exchanges cannot allow illegal immigrants to receive exchange tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies.
State government can make requests for federal government consideration to modify Obamacare to extend health coverage in their state, ThinkProgress reported.
“This bill would require the Secretary of California Health and Human Services to apply to the United States Department of Health and Human Services for a waiver to allow individuals who are not eligible to obtain health coverage because of their immigration status to obtain coverage from the Exchange,” text from California SB 10, amended April 13 in the California Assembly, says.
Illegal immigrants would be required to pay for the health insurance plans themselves.
The bill was approved in the Senate last year. The Assembly Committee on Health passed the bill this week, referring the bill to the Assembly’s appropriations committee.
If the bill makes it through the legislature, it would head to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat.
Brown already signed a bill that will allow illegal immigrant children to receive Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid welfare program for low-income individuals. Coverage will take effect in May.
United States Code prohibits an unqualified illegal immigrant from receiving federal public benefits, or “any retirement, welfare, health, disability, public or assisted housing, postsecondary education, food assistance, unemployment benefit, or any other similar benefit for which payments or assistance are provided to an individual, household, or family eligibility unit by an agency of the United States or by appropriated funds of the United States.”
Legislation proposed last fall by Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, D-Ill., in the United States House of Representatives also aims to extend Obamacare health coverage to illegal immigrants.
Data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services show that 2015 Obamacare enrollment did not meet the Obama administration’s projected 11.7 million enrollees.
“The reason that the 2015 enrollment number went down from 11.7 to 9.5 million was because they did not pay the premium or could not prove citizenship,” Pacific Research Institute’s Pipes said.
Recently, a U.S. Senate report found that up to $750 million in Obamacare tax credits may have gone to illegal immigrants.
Pipes added of California: “Perhaps a taxpayer could sue the state over standing.”