Last week, Governor Brown signed a bipartisan bill to remove a critical barrier to Covered California and allow all Californians to access the state health insurance marketplace, regardless of immigration status. SB 10 (Lara) authorizes the state to apply for a federal waiver that would allow undocumented immigrants to buy unsubsidized health coverage through Covered California. Currently, undocumented immigrants are barred from using the state marketplace under the Affordable Care Act even when using their own money and instead must go directly to a broker or health plan to purchase health insurance.
Governor Brown’s signature of this bipartisan bill is an appropriate recognition that our health system is stronger when everyone is included. We now look forward to California moving quickly to submit the application to remove this counterproductive exclusion, and a quick approval from the federal government. This proposal is not just a benefit for working immigrant families to more easily sign up for coverage, but helps the health and financial vitality of the entire community
We recognize that without subsidies, there will still be a significant affordability issue for many undocumented immigrants. But beyond the important symbolism of inclusion, this waiver application will provide a practical benefit for many California families with mixed immigration status, who will be able to buy coverage together easily, even if some family members are eligible for financial assistance and others are not.
California would make history as one of the first states to use the 1332 waiver process under the ACA, and the first state to pursue such a waiver for this purpose. Under “1332 waivers,” the federal government can allow states to change certain aspects of the Affordable Care Act, as long as the state can show it will meet the same goals of number of people covered, affordability, comprehensiveness of coverage, and cost to the federal government.