Adults Living in California Illegally Would Have Access to Health Care Under Proposed Bills

SACRAMENTO -- Many know Eric Guerra as a Sacramento city councilman but they may not know he grew up in the U.S. illegally.

So whenever he got sick or hurt, which he seems to have done a lot as a young man, he never went to an emergency room or a doctor's office. His family worried about being deported.

"The fear, it was tremendous," Guerra told FOX40.

Last year, California passed a new law that made all children, ages 1 through 19, who were in the country illegally eligible for taxpayer-funded Medi-Cal health coverage.

On Monday, two new bills introduced in the California Senate and Assembly would do the same for all adults living here illegally.

How it would work is already raising concerns.

"They can’t even tell us really what the program is at this point," said Republican consultant Tab Berg. "Is it Medi-Cal for all? And how do are you going to determine who’s qualified and who’s not?"

Berg said the plan is problematic. Without knowing exactly how many people are in California illegally he says it's impossible to know the plan’s real cost or how the state would pay for it.

On top of that, is it a fair use of taxpayer dollars?

"There’s definitely a group of people that say we shouldn’t be providing health insurance to citizens of other countries," Berg explained.

"They are part of our community," said Rachel Linn Gish. "Whether you want them there or not, they are people who deserve health care."

Gish is with Health Access California, one of the sponsors of one of the bills.

"This is just one of a larger grouping of things that we can do to help move California closer to universal health care," she said.

She said an estimated 1.4 million people can’t get access to health care because of their legal status. They are the largest uninsured group in the state.

Since children became Medi-Cal eligible, 250,000 kids are now covered. She calls it a worthy investment.

But do the bills have enough support to pass?

"There are enough people in the middle that are going to say, 'Hey, let’s try to find something that actually works,'" Berg said.

"When everyone is working at their strongest and healthiest, everybody benefits," Guerra said.