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October 12, 2012
 

How Will the Health Law Impact Coverage for Immigrants?

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Non-citizens are three times more likely to be uninsured than U.S.-born residents, although they represent only 20 percent of the nation’s total uninsured. How will the health care reform law will impact this population? Here’s your primer. Continue

The U.S. is home to more than 21 million immigrants who are not citizens, and for many of them, health coverage is a concern. That is partly because so many of these immigrants, both those who came here legally and those who do not have permission to live in the United States, work in lower wage jobs that don’t include health coverage.

As a result, non-citizens are three times more likely to be uninsured than U.S.-born residents, although they represent only 20 percent of the total uninsured.

The health law will help some gain coverage, although those in the country illegally will not get access to federal subsidies or to insurance sold through new state-based exchanges. That omission as well as other decisions by the Obama administration has brought complaints from immigration advocates.Hispanic groups complained about an announcement this summer by the Obama administration that it would not extend the health law’s coverage to young adults who are accepted into a new program granting temporary amnesty to some who were brought to the U.S. as children.

But for those who are not exempt, the health law is expected to boost coverage, either through private insurers or in Medicaid, the state-federal health program for low-income residents. Here are five questions about the health law, immigrants and the medical providers who care for them.

Q. How does the health law affect immigrants who are not citizens and are living in the U.S. legally?

A. Many of the 10 million non-citizens in the U.S. legally are expected to gain health insurance.

Starting in 2014, these immigrants here legally who don’t get coverage through their jobs will be able to purchase health coverage through newstate-based marketplaces called exchanges. Since many are in low-paying jobs, they may also qualify for Medicaid, although they are not eligible for that coverage until they have been in the country for at least five years. The federal law expands Medicaid eligibility in all states to people earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, about $14,800 for an individual and $30,650 for a family of four. An estimated 57 percent of uninsured non-citizens meet that income requirement. However, states are reconsidering that coverage expansion because the Supreme Court in its ruling on the health law last summer determined that the federal government cannot penalize states that choose not to expand eligibility.

Legal immigrants earning more than the Medicaid limit could qualify for a federal subsidy aimed at helping people earning up to $44,680 purchase coverage through the exchanges.

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