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Does expanding Covered California to cover undocumented immigrants make economic sense?

by AirTalk®

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State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Long Beach) introducing SB 1005 at a news conference outside Clinica Oscar Romero in Boyle Heights. Adrian Florido/KPCC

California State Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) has introduced a bill to give undocumented immigrants in the state access to free or subsidized healthcare.

Undocumented Californians currently do not qualified for Medi-Cal, or health insurance coverage under Covered California, the state-run health exchanged launched under the Affordable Care Act.

Senate Bill 1005, or the Health For All Act, would set up a separate health marketplace under Covered California to sell insurance plans to undocumented immigrants who don’t qualify for Medi-Cal. The bill would also expand Medi-Cal so that undocumented immigrants who make under 138 percent of the poverty level -- about $32,000 a year for a family of four -- could receive that benefit.

There are an estimated 2 to 2.5 million undocumented immigrants in California, an estimated 1 million of them are uninsured. No word yet on how the bill would be funded; Lara said his office is working to come up with how much the proposal would cost taxpayers. Proponents of the proposal say the bill would save the state on healthcare costs in the long run.

Guests: 

Ricardo Lara, California State Senator (D-Bell Gardens) representing the 33rd District, which includes South Gate, Huntington Park, Vernon and Long Beach. He introduced Senate Bill 1005

Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute. He is a former domestic policy analyst for the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee, where he advised the Senate leadership on health, education, labor and other issues

Nadereh Pourat, Director of Research Planning at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and a health policy professor at the school. She has done studies on the health care utilization rate of the undocumented population in California

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