California Congressional Republicans Urge Blocking Obamacare for Undocumented Immigrants

Covered California information brochures are displayed during a health insurance enrollment fair in Richmond, California, in March 2014. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Several California congressional Republicans want the Obama administration to block the state’s request to sell health insurance to undocumented immigrants on the state’s exchange.

The move comes after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill earlier this month authorizing California to formally request a waiver from the Affordable Care Act provision that bars undocumented immigrants from any of the law’s benefits. Under a waiver, undocumented immigrants would be able to purchase Covered California health insurance — but they would not be eligible for subsidies. They would only be able to purchase insurance with their own money.

Nine of California’s 14 Republican representatives have signed a letter to cabinet officials appealing to them to deny this waiver. The representatives called California’s request “a brazen attempt to circumvent the will of Congress.”

The letter went on:

The issue of extending coverage to illegal immigrants on the healthcare exchanges was the subject of vigorous debate during the drafting and passage of the ACA.  Both the American people and lawmakers were repeatedly promised illegal immigrants would not be able to receive coverage under the law.

In a statement, State Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, author of the measure, called the law “a zero-cost proposal” and that the move by the representatives “reveals the signers for what they really are: fringe, anti-immigrant obstructionists who … are clearly out of touch with the reality in California where several immigrant integration measures — including this waiver — were approved in both legislative houses with bipartisan support.”

The Affordable Care Act allows federal agencies to grant waivers beginning next year.

The nine signatories to the letter are:

Rep. Darrell Issa
Rep. Tom McClintock
Rep.  Ken Calvert
Rep.  Dana Rohrabacher
Rep.  Duncan Hunter
Rep. Doug LaMalfa
Rep.  Paul Cook
Rep.  Ed Royce
Rep.  Mimi Walters

California Congressional Republicans Urge Blocking Obamacare for Undocumented Immigrants 29 June,2016Lisa Aliferis

  • jurgispilis

    This is not an immigration integration measure, but rather an unauthorized foreigner integration measure.
    The letter makes perfect sense. Senator
    Lara is the fringe dude

  • Skip Conrad

    Why don’t they buy medical insurance outside the exchanges, on the open market?

  • jskdn

    From the ACA:
    “Subpart B—Eligibility Determinations
    (a) ESTABLISHMENT OF PROGRAM.—The Secretary shall establish a program meeting the requirements of this section for determining—
    (1) whether an individual who is to be covered in the
    individual market by a qualified health plan offered through
    an Exchange, or who is claiming a premium tax credit or
    reduced cost-sharing, meets the requirements of sections
    1312(f)(3), 1402(e), and 1412(d) of this title and section 36B(e)
    of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 that the individual be
    a citizen or national of the United States or an alien lawfully
    present in the United States;”

    This seems to prohibit exchange participation. Interesting it also categorically exempts illegal immigrants from the tax penalties other people face for not being insured. But the ACA didn’t exempt illegal immigrants from being able to buy on the non-exchange market without any medical underwriting. So a legal resident ineligible for subsidies because their income was too high and non buying qualified coverage would have to pay large tax penalties but a similar illegal immigrant wouldn’t.

  • Kurt thialfad

    “Blocking Obamacare for Undocumented Immigrants”?? Aren’t they excluded by definition?

    I think these Congress people simply want the law implemented as written. How hard is that to understand?

  • Ajoy Bhatia

    I agree with the other commenters. Aliens unlawfully present in the United States do not and SHOULD NOT have access to the Exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act. These people do not pay taxes and are not subject to the penalties, so they do not have the right to benefit from these provisions, either. This is one area where I agree with the Republicans, though I disagree with them on almost everything else. Also, I wish everyone would PLEASE stop calling them “undocumented immigrants” and call them what they are – illegal aliens.


Lisa Aliferis

Lisa Aliferis is the founding editor of KQED’s State of Health blog. Since 2011, she’s been writing and editing stories for the site. Before taking up blogging, she toiled for many years (more than we can count) producing health stories for television, including Dateline NBC and San Francisco’s CBS affiliate, KPIX-TV. She also wrote up a handy guide to the Affordable Care Act, especially for Californians. Her work has been honored for many awards. Most recently she was a finalist for “Best Topical Reporting” from the Online News Association. You can follow her on Twitter: @laliferis

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