San Jose Mercury News -- Tracy Seipel

A first-in-the-nation bill aimed at expanding health care for illegal immigrants sailed through the Senate on Tuesday even as some lawmakers acknowledged that thousands of legal residents are having to struggle to access health care through the state's Medi-Cal program.

In a 28-11 vote, a newly pared-down version of Senate Bill 4 by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, would let undocumented Californians buy health insurance with their own money through the state's Covered California exchange if the state is given a waiver by the federal government. It would also allow anyone age 18 and under to enroll in Medi-Cal regardless of immigration status -- and let undocumented immigrants age 19 and up enroll in Medi-Cal if there's money provided in the state budget.

"We are here today trying to address this critical issue that is vital to the success of our California: ... providing care to our undocumented community,'' Lara told colleagues before the vote. "The time has come for us to lead.''

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rewards for illegal immigration

Updated: Wed, Jun 17th 2015 @ 9:40am EDT