Oregon lawmakers pass bill to make illegal immigrants eligible for Medicaid, Dem gov expected to sign into law

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Oregon’s State Senate on Saturday passed a bill that would make illegal immigrants in the state eligible for Medicaid-funded medical services — sending the legislation to Democratic Gov. Kate Brown for signature.

The bill, HB 335, expands eligibility to adults who would otherwise qualify for Medicaid-funded state medical assistance program but are excluded due to their immigration status. It passed 17-11 in the Senate, after having passed the House 37-21 earlier this week.

The development was first reported by The Lund Report, an Oregon-based outlet. The outlet had previously cited estimates that there are more than 110,000 illegal immigrants in the state and that the program would cost $100 million in the next two years.

Lawmakers in favor of the bill had estimated that the bill “would expand Medicaid coverage to include approximately 100,000 Oregonians who would otherwise be eligible except for their status as undocumented immigrants.” 

“When opportunities in our state are withheld from a specific class of people, we perpetuate systems of inequity,” the lawmakers argued in The Oregonian. “As legislators of color, we believe it is important to challenge the injustices that have been in our nation and state since their founding.” 

The bill is likely to be signed by Brown, a Democrat, who had previously expressed support for the “Cover All People” proposal.

“All Oregonians must have quality, affordable health care, regardless of who they are or where they live,” Brown said in March. “During my time as Governor, we’ve made great strides in expanding access. Currently, 94 percent of Oregonians and 100 percent of children have access to health care. The pandemic has taught us this is not good enough. And unfortunately, our communities of color have paid the price. Gaps in coverage persist, and these gaps are disproportionately borne by communities of color.”

It is the latest move by Democrats across the country to expand access to taxpayer-funded benefits programs to those in the country illegally, by either expanding access, dropping restrictions or otherwise by promoting a pathway to citizenship for those who entered illegally.

New York recently created a $2 billion fund to offer one-time payments of up to $15,600 to illegal immigrants who lost income during the pandemic but were not eligible for federal aid.

In Washington, a number of Democrats pushed for stimulus checks and other coronavirus-related aid to be made available for those in the country illegally, moves that saw pushback from Republicans.

Earlier this year, Republicans proposed an amendment that would prohibit any future economic impact payments from being sent to illegal immigrants, and 42 Senate Democrats voted against it. 

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