California proposes expanding benefits to immigrants


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California lawmakers announced support this week for a package of bills that would offer Medi-Cal and other public services to immigrants living in the country without documentation.

The leaders of the California Senate and Assembly, in announcing the “Immigrants Shape California” package, said the measure was prompted by inaction by the federal government on immigration reform.

“California has grown into the greatest state in the nation and the world’s seventh largest economy on the backs of settlers from all over this country and immigrants from many others,” said state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, a Democrat, in a story published by the San Francisco Chronicle’s online site, SFGate. “Our infrastructure, our railroads, our roads and bridges were built by immigrants. Immigrants shape California.”

The bill – SB4 -–- would extend Medi-Cal to low-income immigrants living in the country without documentation.  It would also allow such immigrants to buy health insurance from the Covered California exchange at unsubsidized rates available to others in the state, but it is dependent upon being granted a waiver by the federal government

State Sen. Ricardo Lara, who is among those supporting the bill, said 30 percent of undocumented immigrants can afford Covered California insurance without subsidies.

Lara tried unsuccessfully to expand Medi-Cal last year, but those efforts eventually collapsed under the weight of the estimated $1.3 billion-a-year cost.

Lara is taking a different tack in trying to secure a federal waiver to expand Medi-Cal coverage to immigrants and limit the cost of the expansion.

“The numbers are still being worked out, but we’ve brought it down from what we once thought would be $1 billion to close to $400-million-to-$800 million a year,” Lara said in the SFGate report. “It looks like something that’s do-able to cover folks.”

Read more at San Francisco Chronicle.

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