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California moves closer to health insurance for undocumented residents

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill on Friday that could allow people without documentation to purchase health insurance through the state’s exchange, leading the country again on immigrant-friendly policy.

Senate Bill 10 asks the federal government to waive a policy in the state’s exchange, Covered California, that prohibits undocumented people from buying its insurance. Covered California was set up by a mandate through the Affordable Care Act, so changing the literature’s limitations will require federal approval.

The bill passed the Senate 28-10 on Monday. If approved, California would be the first state in the country to enable about one percent of its 38.8 million residents — undocumented people who earn an income too high to qualify for a low-income plan — to buy the state’s insurance.

“The current policy disallowing immigrants from purchasing care with their own money is both discriminatory and outdated,” Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), who wrote the bill, said in a statement. “Today we ask the federal government to remove barriers to health insurance access that discriminates against some of our residents on the basis of their documentation status.”

According to the Sacramento Bee, Republicans who opposed the bill in the state legislature worried it would encourage immigrants to come to the state, which they argued could overburden the health care system. California also allows people living there illegally to apply for driver’s licenses and licenses to become a lawyer.

“If we can’t even take care of our own citizens and legal residents, why would we want to take care of others?” Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach, said during a floor debate.

Lara, with the support of immigration rights advocates, had put an urgency clause on the legislation in the hopes it will reach Washington, D.C., before President Barack Obama leaves office.

“We’re very confident we’re going to be able to get this done,” Lara said.

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