California Explores Private Insurance for Immigrants Lacking Legal Status. But Is It Affordable?

by | Feb 27, 2023 | Health

A doctor found cysts in Lilia Becerril’s right breast five years ago, but the 51-year-old lacks health insurance. She said she can’t afford the imaging to find out if they’re cancerous.

Becerril earns about $52,000 a year at a nonprofit in California’s Central Valley, putting her and her husband, Armando, at more than double the limit to qualify for Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program for people with low incomes and disabilities. Private insurance would cost $1,230 a month in premiums, money needed for their mortgage.

“We’ve been resorting to home remedies to get through the pain,” Becerril said through a Spanish translator. Her husband has needed hernia surgery for 20 years. “It’s frustrating because we pay our taxes, but we can’t reap any of the benefits of where our taxes are going,” she added.

While many Californians who earn too much to be eligible for Medi-Cal can get subsidized coverage through Covered California, an estimated 460,000 residents aren’t allowed to buy insurance through state-run insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act because they lack legal status. One Democratic lawmaker says it’s a small but glaring gap and is crafting a bill that could test Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s commitment to reach universal health care.

“We’re going to need to figure out how to provide universal coverage for all who call this state home,” said the bill’s author, Assembly member Joaquin Ara …

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