Coverage extensions for illegal immigrants could be on horizon

After California lawmakers proposed legislation last week to provide health coverage to illegal immigrants--which would make it the first state to extend health insurance to undocumented residents--other states likely will follow suit.

The bill (S.B. 1005), which was proposed by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D), would provide health coverage for more than 2 million state residents, many of whom are undocumented immigrants, aren't eligible for federal subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, California Healthline reported.

"Other states are looking at this kind of legislation, although not to the degree California is so far," Jenny Rejeske, health policy analyst with the National Immigration Law Center, told Healthline. "I think this is the natural next step--to be looking at ways to provide coverage for all those who are left out of the Affordable Care Act."

The bill isn't completely without precedent, however. Some states, including New York, Massachusetts, Illinois and Washington, already provide state-based health coverage for undocumented children.

And not all states that follow in California's footsteps will focus on ways to provide health coverage for illegal immigrants. Some will try to extend health insurance to legal residents who aren't covered under the reform law. For example, low-income legal immigrants must wait five years for Medicaid eligibility and may not be able to afford coverage in the meantime, as FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

"I think it's important to point out that it's not just undocumented immigrants who are not going to get coverage through the ACA," Rejeske said. "There's this misconception that everyone who is legally in this country will be covered under the new law but that isn't the case at all."

To learn more:
- here's the California Healthline article
- read the bill