Depending on their legal status, uninsured immigrants will have access to new health care marketplaces starting Tuesday under the Affordable Care Act, which is more commonly known as Obamacare. Almost 20 percent of the total non-elderly, uninsured population are immigrants.
Although the Obama administration is attempting to reach out to as many uninsured individuals as legally possible, some immigrants will remain completely excluded while other immigrants still face eligibility restrictions for health coverage. To navigate through the varying degrees of access, here is a simple breakdown of the type of immigrants who qualify for enrollment:
Naturalized citizens and legal permanent residents who have lived here for more than five years. For naturalized citizens and green card holders who have been in the country for five years or more, they will be able to enroll in the health care program just like U.S.-born citizens. These immigrants will also qualify for Medicaid, which is income-dependent. Medicaid coverage is available to people under the age of 65 who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line.
Legal permanent residents who have lived here for less than five years. Legal permanent residents with incomes up to 400 percent below the federal poverty level can qualify for subsidized health care coverage. Those who have been in the country less than five years do not qualify for Medicaid.
Refugees, asylees, immigrants exempt on humanitarian grounds. All of these individuals qualify for health insurance coverage and Medicaid, even if they have lived in the United States for less than five years.
Palau, Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia residents. Under a special compact, the United States considers individuals from these three United Nations trust territories to be non-citizens who do not receive federal benefits. They do however qualify for marketplace coverage. They do not qualify for Medicaid.
H-1B, F-1, J-1 visas. Individuals who are on work visas, student visas, or have been in the country for less than five years are eligible to buy insurance through the health care exchange, but they do not qualify for Medicaid.
Deferred Action. The estimated 455,455 undocumented youths who were approved for deferred action status through a presidential initiative will qualify for neither the health insurance coverage nor Medicaid.
Undocumented immigrants. The 11.7 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States are ineligible for healthcare coverage. However, undocumented immigrants with social security numbers or identification cards issued by a foreign consulate can apply for private, but not state-based, health insurance, if they can afford it. In some states like California, undocumented immigrants can apply for Medicaid (or Medi-Cal), but coverage extends to emergencies, prenatal, and long-term care. The cost is funded not by federal resources, but through state funds.
Undocumented immigrants with U.S. citizen children. This group of immigrants will still be unable to enroll in the health insurance exchange, but their U.S. citizen and legal permanent resident children can qualify for health insurance coverage and Medicaid. Separately, states can choose to use state and federal Medicaid funds to cover pregnant women and other “lawfully present” children.
Legal Latino immigrants make up nearly 30 percent of the total uninsured population. The government has launched a Spanish-language website, CuidadodeSalud.gov, but that enrollment through the site has been delayed until October 21. However, the English-language website launched on the first day of open enrollment and the the government’s help line has provided Spanish-language speakers along with speakers of 150 other languages.