Congressman: Illegal Immigrants Should Be Able To Buy Insurance

Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.)

Called on the Obama administration to allow every state in the nation to offer undocumented immigrants the ability to purchase health insurance plans available on the marketplace exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.

“In California, the state that had the most success in getting people uninsured insured — in California we cut our uninsured rate by half. Millions of Californians today have the same things that most of us here took for granted and that is quality affordable health care for your families. So what’s going on today is that in California they’re not standing still. The State Legislature and the governor have said we should make the Marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act available to more Americans and in this case, they are going to make it available to the undocumented families in America at no federal taxpayer expense,” Becerra said at a press conference on Capitol Hill.

“Let me repeat that, California has decided to make the Marketplace — the Health Exchange, Covered California — available to the undocumented in California, for those families, without charging federal taxpayers a single penny. But, now, they will have the opportunity to get affordable health care insurance and not get ripped off by the fly-by-nights that try to get advantage of them,” he added.

Becerra urged the rest of the nation to mirror California’s decision to offer insurance to undocumented immigrants.

“That is what the rest of the country should do. Those from California are thrilled that our state has moved forward, our legislature and our governor have moved forward,” he said.

A group of Democratic members of Congress sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Monday requesting the approval of an “innovation waiver” that would permit the state to give undocumented immigrants the option to purchase “unsubsidized health insurance.”

“Enrolling all Californians – no matter their immigration status – in comprehensive coverage, is not only a more humanitarian approach, it’s also more cost effective to ensure people have access to preventive care and wellness programs and receive treatment before their condition becomes more damaging and more costly,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said in a press release announcing the letter on Wednesday.

Lofgren said the lawmakers understand that some undocumented immigrants won’t buy insurance even if they have the option.

“Not every person is going to be able to afford to buy into this. We’re aware of that, but for people that can scrape together the money to buy into it, this is going to be good for them and good for the state,” she said.

State Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Calif.) explained that legislators are working with Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.) to figure out how much state aid they could apply to the program that would offer health insurance to undocumented immigrants as a way to achieve “health for all.”

Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) said there is a “false assumption” that most undocumented immigrants are poor.

“I deal with a lot of undocumented workers and some of our workers are making $33 per hour as strawberry pickers, so don’t assume that every undocumented worker won’t find a way to cover this. What we’re saying here is give them a chance. Let the marketplace decide,” he said.

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