A toxic mix of immigration and health care politics just hit California.
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No insurance for undocumented immigrants anytime soon.

By Sy Mukherjee
January 19, 2017

A California lawmaker is calling the state’s recent decision to nix a proposal that would provide health insurance to undocumented immigrants under Obamacare “the first California casualty of the Trump presidency,” the Sacramento Bee reports.

The Golden State has been pursuing a controversial federal government waiver that would open up health coverage to as many as 390,000 undocumented adults in California. Democratic Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill to that effect last summer.

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But final approval for the proposal, which would allow undocumented people to buy individual health plans through the state’s Obamacare marketplace, Covered California, relied on clearance from the Obama administration since such immigrants are specifically barred from receiving coverage under the law. (California’s proposal also would not have provided federal tax subsidies to help these residents buy insurance, meaning money for premiums and deductibles would have come entirely out of the immigrants’ own pockets.)

Bill sponsor state Sen. Ricardo Lara said that he and Brown agreed to withdraw the waiver request given Trump’s antipathy towards undocumented immigrants and Obamacare at large, and fears that these residents’ privacy would be in danger.

California has the country’s largest undocumented population at 2.4 million. While providing health care to people in the country illegally ruffles political feathers, some public health advocates argue it’s far more effective to give these immigrants some form of coverage rather than have them rely solely on expensive emergency rooms, which legally cannot turn them away, during a medical emergency. The state already allows undocumented children receive coverage under its Medicaid program.

Lara ultimately sounded a defiant note despite the setback. “California is committed to a healthier future for all, and we will continue to seek ways to expand health coverage even as Republicans in Washington move to take it away,” he said in a statement.

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