The Affordable Care Act and Immigration

In the years since its passage, many Americans have become familiar with the basic provisions of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, which makes significant changes to the U.S. healthcare system. Many of these changes are scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2014.

In the context of immigration, important aspects of the Affordable Care Act include:

  • Obamacare requires individuals to purchase health insurance or face a penalty. U.S. citizens and legal immigrants are subject to this mandate.
  • Contrary to rumors that occasionally surface, the Affordable Care Act only allows U.S. citizens and legal residents to purchase health insurance on the new health insurance exchanges. Just as unauthorized immigrants are ineligible for food stamps and Medicaid, they are ineligible to purchase health insurance on the exchanges.
  • Certain legal immigrants can benefit from tax credits to purchase health insurance on an exchange, as long as they do not qualify for Medicaid because they have not been here for five years and their income is at or below the poverty line.

Since unauthorized immigrants cannot purchase insurance on the exchanges, they likely are going to continue to be uninsured at high rates and to seek care in emergency rooms. Under federal law, hospitals may not turn away individuals seeking emergency treatment, even if they are uninsured or undocumented.

Taxpayers have long been indirectly paying for emergency treatment for unauthorized immigrants. When hospitals provide unauthorized immigrants with emergency services for things like childbirth and sudden or serious conditions, they can receive reimbursement from the federal government if those patients either would have been eligible for Medicaid (had they been in the country legally) or were in the United States legally (but not long enough to qualify for Medicaid).

For questions regarding any immigration issue, an experienced Florida attorney who is knowledgeable about immigration law can assist you. Our firm offers consultations in English, Spanish, Creole or Portuguese.

 

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