Sen. Lara Re-Introduces Health for All Act

Sen. Lara Re-Introduces Health for All Act

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Image: Supporters rallying for Sen. Lara's Health For All bill in October.

Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) today re-introduced the Health for All Act of 2015 which would guarantee all Californians, regardless of their immigration status, access to health care coverage.

“Access to health care is a human rights issue and until everyone is included, our work is unfinished,” the senator said in a press release after he introduced the bill.

Health care advocates, many of whom have been working closely with the senator, noted that although California has made “great strides” in enrolling hundreds of thousands of people into health plans thanks to President Obama’s landmark 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA), the law excludes undocumented immigrants. That means millions of state residents still remain without access to health care.

Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access, a statewide consumer health advocacy coalition, noted that California has been at the forefront of providing health coverage to many immigrant families, but Lara’s bill places the state “on the cusp of taking modest additional steps [to] provide coverage for all Californians, regardless of immigration status.”

According to the Migration Policy Institute, some 400,000 California youth between the ages of 15 and 31 became eligible for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status under President Obama’s 2013 executive order. The law provides temporary relief from deportation, gives beneficiaries a work permit and allows them to apply for a driver's license. Another 1.2 million undocumented Californians are likely to gain temporary deferred action under Obama’s more recent executive order.

Both groups fall under a category called PRUCOL (Permanent Residents Under Color of Law), and under California law, PRUCOL residents are eligible for state-funded Medi-Cal.

A spokesman at Lara’s office said that the language of today’s bill is yet to be written. That won’t happen until Lara negotiates with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Lara’s earlier Health For All bill (SB 1005) introduced earlier this year included state-funded subsidies. It stalled in the Senate Appropriations Committee a few months ago because it did not have a clear funding mechanism. The bill would have created a further expansion of Medi-Cal (the state’s name for Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income people) and created a state-funded health insurance exchange that mirrored the federally subsidized exchange created by the ACA.

Even though the bill stalled, the senator continued promoting it at every opportunity, never allowing it to lose momentum.

A few months ago, Lara floated a funding mechanism: fees on driver’s licenses for those who are undocumented, as well as new fees on remittances – money that people send to their home countries.

Thanks to the 400,000 DACA beneficiaries and those expected to benefit from President Obama’s announcement of two weeks ago, the number of undocumented residents in California will be fewer now than it was even a year ago, said a spokesman from Lara’s office.

Even so, until he has a more precise number of those who will continue to remain uninsured, Lara will not be able to put a price tag on his new bill, the spokesman said.