No Obamacare for the Undocumented

Since President Barack Obama announced in June his directive of deferred action that would provide qualifying immigrants with temporary status and work authorization, questions have flown around as to the specific benefits these individuals would be entitled to receive. Well, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), they will not be eligible for health care under the Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”).

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ruled and made this decision last week, thus making it clear just how limited the deferred action directive is. The Affordable Care Act does, however, allow non-citizens who are “lawfully present in the United States” to participate in high-risk pools and exchanges, along with premium credits and cost-sharing subsidies, so long as they are otherwise eligible.” Confusion as to whether undocumented immigrants would qualify for “Obamacare” dates back to 2009 when in a speech on healthcare to Congress, Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC) yelled out at the president after he said the undocumented would be ineligible, and President Obama said “you lie.”

But with this clarification made by HHS, it was confirmed that undocumented immigrants under the deferred action plan are prevented from receiving those benefits. Furthermore, those who are given deferred action will continue to not have access to neither Medicaid nor the Children’s Health Insurance Program. There are an estimated 1.7 million undocumented immigrants who will benefit from deferred action, that along with the other estimated 10 million that will not qualify make up a significant portion of the people living in this country. About 59% of those were uninsured as of 2008, comprising about 15% of the overall uninsured population. If a big chunk of people are ignored and neglected for insurance purposes, then it will cost the country a lot more in the long run given that costs for uninsured individuals who can’t afford health care on their own will be steep if they resort to emergency rooms; but most of all, having the fact that these people are being denied health insurance—something that may very well cost them their health and even lives— in our conscience is an even heavier cross to bear.

We are disappointed with the announcement made by HHS that bars undocumented immigrants from having access to Obama’s Universal Healthcare option, this decision will surely have serious ripple effects that will affect us all—undocumented or not.

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