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Lara_undocumented_students.JPGA bill to extend subsidized health benefits to undocumented immigrants stalled in the state Senate on Friday, but could be revived if its supporters identify a way to pay for the expansion.

Senate Bill 1005 aims to close a gap in the federal health care overhaul, which only makes insurance plans available to those in the country legally. Authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, the measure would open Medi-Cal to undocumented immigrants as well as create a marketplace for new plans.

California counties currently provide health care to undocumented immigrants, but the coverage varies greatly among counties.

Health advocates contend the legislation is needed to fully achieve the promises of the federal Affordable Care Act in California. Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, and chairman of the upper house's fiscal committee, described a "two-tiered" system that discriminates against millions of people that but "for lack of paperwork are Americans."

"SB 1005 is a necessary measure, but we need to continue to find responsible funding sources so that we don't already over-strain our safety net, and make sure it doesn't come apart," de León said.

Lara and advocates were given the summer to develop a funding mechanism for the expansion. At the hearing, Lara said he respected the decision.

"Expanding healthcare for all Californians is not a question of if but ... a matter of when," he said.

PHOTO: Sen. Ricardo Lara is joined, left to right, by UC Davis student Ana Maciel, UC President Janet Napolitano, Sacramento State student Deisy Caro and Sacramento State President Alexander Gonzalez at the State Capitol on April 9. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.


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