Covered California

Health & Medicine
By Claudia Buck
cbuck@sacbee.com
April 7, 2016 – 9:11 AM

  • Covered California takes first step toward enrolling undocumented residents
  • There would be no state or federal subsidies
  • Potential enrollment of undocumented residents could reach 50,000

In a move called both symbolic and practical, the Covered California board took the first step Thursday toward allowing undocumented residents to purchase health plans – with no state or federal subsidies – through California’s Obamacare marketplace.

The board can’t officially enact that change, which requires state legislation and federal permission, but Covered California officials indicated they were ready to lend support if California lawmakers ask them to.

“The ball is in their court,” said Peter Lee, director of Covered California, who said there is no guarantee that permission would be granted by federal health care officials.

Currently, undocumented residents can purchase a health insurance plan in California through private insurance brokers, but cannot use the Covered California marketplace.

It’s not clear how many undocumented residents would be interested in purchasing plans through the exchange. One estimate, according to a Covered California report, said the potential enrollment is 50,000 individuals.

The move to seek a federal waiver was endorsed by numerous advocacy groups.

“This could potentially benefit tens of thousands of (immigrant) Californians,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a consumer advocacy group. “Beyond the symbolism of inclusion, this will provide practical benefits. It’s allowing people to take on the financial responsibility of getting covered and having health care security. Even folks who disagree with immigration policy can agree that it’s a good thing.”

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