Washington Wants To Deny Health Benefits To Formerly Undocumented Immigrants — But Americans Don’t

With Congress engaged in a contentious fight over how to overhaul the nation’s broken immigration system, lawmakers from both parties — including President Obama — see eye-to-eye on at least one aspect of the debate: previously undocumented immigrants who achieve provisional legal or deferred action status should not be eligible for government health care benefits or insurance subsidies.

But according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s (KFF) February tracking poll, Washington is out of touch with a strong majority of Americans, who believe that such immigrants should be able to access care with the help of government resources:

The survey finds that even Republicans are relatively split on providing Medicaid benefits to low-income immigrants with provisional legal status. KFF’s report goes on to underscore the largely-ignored reality that even lawfully present immigrants — including those who were never undocumented, and particularly those with low incomes — have to jump through hoops in order to gain coverage. KFF conducted a more thorough analysis on this exact issue earlier this month in order to highlight the discrepancies between naturalized citizens’ and low-income immigrants’ access to services:

The long waiting periods that low-income immigrants must endure in order to get Medicaid coverage are particularly troubling given the fact that poorer immigrants likely cannot afford private insurance on the individual market and usually work for employers that do not provide their workers with health coverage. That perfect storm of coverage gaps perpetuates a system in which poor immigrants are forced to pursue care at underground, cash-only local clinics with little public oversight, such as Los Angeles’ ubiquitous neighborhood “bodega clinicas.”

Eliminating these barriers to health coverage by eliminating the Medicaid waiting period for low-income legal immigrants and allowing DREAMers and other immigrants who achieve provisional legal status — assuming comprehensive immigration reform passes, that is — to access Medicaid and Obamacare’s insurance subsidies would actually strengthen America’s health care system, as more people would be able to afford their care and receive cost-saving preventative services. Such reform policies are clearly supported by the factual evidence — and also, as it turns out, by the American people.