California Senate Votes to Let Undocumented Immigrants Use Obamacare Exchange

The bill passed on Tuesday also allows immigrants in the country illegally, and who are under the age of 19, to enroll in Medi-Cal.

on March 18, 2014 in San Francisco, California.

Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The California Senate voted Tuesday to allow undocumented workers living in the state to obtain medical insurance through its Obamacare health exchange. 

Senate Bill 4 also would allow those in the country illegally who are 18 years of age or younger and reside in California to enroll in Medi-Cal, the state's insurance program for the poor, the Sacramento Bee reported. In order to obtain coverage under the Affordable Care Act, the state would need to file a federal waver, and those immigrants who applied would not be eligible for federal subsidies. 

"Ensuring that every child in California grows up healthy and with an opportunity to thrive and succeed is simply the right thing to do.” Democratic Senator Ricardo Lara, who authored the bill, told the Bee. 

The measure, which passed by a 28-11 margin in the Senate, now heads to the state assembly. Citing concern over the cost of expanding coverage for undocumented immigrants, Governor Jerry Brown has not said whether he will sign the bill. 

The fate of the measure is dependent on available funding, and will require that legislators vote to add money to the budget to pay for it. The senate's own analysis found that extending Medi-Cal benefits to 786,600 immigrants would cost the state $690 million annually, and while those who obtained health insurance through the Covered California exchange would pay for their own insurance coverage, there would be further costs involved. 

"If 20% of undocumented immigrants who are not income eligible for Medi-Cal enroll through Covered California, the administrative costs and fees collected to pay those costs would be about $25 million per year," a report by the Senate Health Committee concluded. 

"If this bill were to be signed into law, it would only serve to exacerbate the problem and not fix it,” Republican Senator Jeff Stone told the Bee. “This bill would only add hundreds of thousands of more patients to the roll with no one to care for them.” 

President Obama's executive orders on immigration, which are currently being held up in the courts, did not extend medical coverage under the Affordable Care Act to undocumented workers. 

—Michael Marois contributed to this article. 

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