SACRAMENTO, June 11 (UPI) -- California could become the first state to ask the federal government to let undocumented immigrants buy insurance under the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.
Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, signed legislation Friday that attempts to allow people in the country illegally to purchase the insurance through Covered California without costing the state or federal government anything.
Undocumented immigrants are barred from the insurance exchanges but Obamacare allows states to apply for a federal waiver if the federal government doesn't have to pay for the costs. Up to 390,000 people who earned an income too high for Medi-Cal could purchase the insurance through the exchange.
"The current policy disallowing immigrants from purchasing care with their own money is both discriminatory and outdated," Sen. Ricardo Lara, who wrote legislation, said in a statement. "I thank Gov. Brown for advancing justice today."
Republicans in the legislature said it would overburden the healthcare system, possibly increase premiums and attract more undocumented immigrants to the state.
Brown last year signed a bill allowing 170,000 people under the age of 19 who are in the county illegally to sign up for Medi-Cal.
The state also has allowed immigrants there illegally to apply for professional licenses and for drivers licenses.
Marielena Hincapié, executive director for the National Immigration Law Center, hopes California's new law will spur other states to pass similar legislation.
"There is more work to be done, but California's trailblazing efforts on this front should inspire other states to follow," Hincapié said to the Los Angeles Times.