Debra J. Saunders

By Debra J. Saunders
Friday, June 12, 2015 – Updated 3:08 pm

“There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false — the reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally,” President Obama proclaimed in a 2009 speech to Congress. It was a memorable event in part because Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., shouted, “You lie.” Editorial-page umbrage followed.

This month, the California Senate proved that, while Wilson was wrong to heckle the president, he had reason to challenge the sincerity of Obama’s pledge. By a 28-11 vote, the Democrat-controlled state Senate became the first U.S. legislative body to vote to expand health care to undocumented immigrants. Senate Bill 4 by state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens (Los Angeles County), would allow undocumented Californians to buy Affordable Care Act policies (assuming the feds grant a waiver), authorize residents up to age 19 to enroll in Medi-Cal regardless of immigration status and allow some adults to enroll in Medi-Cal regardless of immigration status.

This is how change happens. Last year, Lara’s first “Health for All” bill promised health care to all California residents regardless of immigration status. The tab was $1.3 billion . It was too pricey, so he peeled it back, and back some more — to a projected $135 million. How? The bill that passed the state Senate provides Medi-Cal to minors regardless of immigration status, but no subsidy for undocumented residents who want to purchase private plans through Covered California, absent a federal subsidy. Also, SB4 puts a cap on unauthorized adults applying for Medi-Cal. When it looks as if the funding will run out, the state probably will not accept new enrollees.

What is the cap on undocumented enrollees? Don’t know. “The cap would depend on budget allocations to be decided next year,” answered Lara spokesman Jesse Melgar.

In a way, it doesn’t matter. If SB4 becomes law, the camel’s nose will have penetrated the tent. Within six years of the president promising that immigrants in the country would not be eligible for Obamacare — presumably because that would be wrong — the first state will have bypassed that promise. You just know that Sacramento will continue to push to expand the number of undocumented immigrants eligible for benefits. No one ever told the Democratic Legislature, you cannot say “yes” to everyone.

Sure, Sacto solons look generous waving Medi-Cal before some 1 million undocumented immigrants. But with Medi-Cal paying doctors as little as $16 for a patient visit, many physicians are refusing to take more Medi-Cal patients. Pols don’t care if already there are not enough doctors to pay for the program’s existing 12 million recipients. They look good; the docs look greedy.

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