Over the past several years, the ways in which people across the country are covered by health insurance has obviously been a major topic for many lawmakers. Now, the state of California is considering a new and controversial bill that would further extend access to millions of residents who do not yet have it.
At issue is the fact that these people are living in the Golden State as undocumented residents, according to a report from the National Journal. State Sen. Richard Lara recently introduced the bill in question, which would extend coverage to as many as 1 million such immigrants, via the state's Covered California health insurance exchange, as well as its Medicaid program, known as Medi-Cal.
Currently, there are about 2.6 million undocumented immigrants in the state, and of that number, 1.6 million have health insurance through their jobs or government-run programs at the county level, the report said. Specifically, the law would require the state to seek a petition with the California Health and Human Services Agency to cover those people.
"I think one of the final frontiers to ensure equity and equality across the spectrum is to ensure folks have access to good health care," Jesse Melgar, a spokesman for Lara, told the publication.
What's at issue?
However, opponents are concerned that the bill would give people who are technically here illegally access to affordable medical care, and bringing them aboard via the exchanges or Medicaid would add well above $350 million to the state's costs already (that number is for Medicaid only; data is not yet available for the exchange price tag), the report said. Further, it is unclear just how many more people might be included in that number if President Barack Obama's delayed executive action on undocumented immigrants goes into effect. When that happens, the number could grow by an additional 400,000. But even opponents say that this could be part of broader immigration reform going forward, even if it doesn't pass; they likewise state there's a need to revisit the subject, but potentially in a way that wouldn't add huge costs to state taxpayers.
Certainly, these are issues that health insurers must consider, especially if access to coverage is made part of national immigration reform over the next few years. This could unlock a potentially sizable market of people who do not yet have health insurance, but who may soon be required to carry it just like everyone else.