Officials of California are asking the Obama Administration to approve a plan that would allow foreign nationals in the state to purchase health insurance on California’s public exchange. The officials claim that around 30% of the state’s two million undocumented immigrants could be eligible for the program. They also estimate that around 17,000 individuals will be able to participate within the first year. The proposal, however, faces serious challenges in Washington, where it has to be approved by the Department of Treasury and the Department of Health and Human Services.
A Move to Make Health Insurance Accessible to All
In 2013, President Obama made it clear that health insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act would not go to undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., but the advocates of California’s initiative argue that the program should be approved under an “innovation waiver”. An innovation waiver allows states to modify provisions of the federal law, given that no federal dollars will be used to fund the program.
“We’re simply asking Washington to allow California to once again allow more people to pay into the system,” said Senator Ricardo Lara who authored the bill. “We’re reaffirming once again our desire to make affordable preventative care available to everyone and our belief that health care is a human right not a privilege.”
California officials already expect that the proposal will meet serious hurdles in Washington. In the state, however, the proposal is widely supported. Public health advocates have been laying the groundwork for such a program for years. Some Republicans in the State Legislature even voted to approve the proposal in June.
Last week, California’s Democratic congressional delegation wrote the Obama administration, asking for approval. It may take several months before a federal decision on the application will be finalized.
Saving Lives, Saving Money
According to Representative Zoe Lofgren of San Jose, the senior Democrat on the House Judiciary subcommittee on immigration, allowing undocumented immigrants to purchase health insurance could also save California money in the long run, because it would considerably decrease the reliance on emergency health services.
Chona de Leon, the chief operating officer at Eisner Pediatric and Family Medical Center in Los Angeles, echoes Lofgren’s statement, saying that many uninsured immigrant families routinely avoid doctor visits, until they end up in an emergency room.
“They just wait until they are really sick,” she said “and it ends up being more expensive for everybody.”
If you want to know more your rights as an undocumented immigrant in the United States, contact Lyttle Law Firm today. You may visit our website or call our offices at 512-215-5225.