Low-Income American Immigrants to Lack Health Insurance after 2014

low cost health insuranceMany low-income immigrants residing in the United States will still be without low cost health insurance once reform fully goes into effect in 2014, even if they live in a state opting to expand its Medicaid eligibility requirements, according to a new study conducted by the University of Minnesota. Legal immigrants will also face challenges securing government-sponsored health insurance as assistance will not be available to them until years after reform takes effect.

17 Percent of Immigrants Lose Out on Low Cost Health Insurance

The new study, released in mid-March 2013, found that of 185 million American adults, approximately 20.6 million will go without low cost health insurance coverage after the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented. Of that population, 17 percent who are classified as legal immigrants or unauthorized citizens will go without coverage.

This is especially tough for legal permanent residents who, in most circumstances, do not meet Medicaid eligibility rules during their first five years of legal U.S. residency. Unauthorized immigrants are completely excluded from Medicaid coverage, which means if they eventually become legal citizens they won’t qualify for low cost health insurance offered by the U.S. government for five additional years thereafter.

Coverage Options for Immigrants Who Don’t Meet Medicaid Eligibility

The study concluded that, though legal immigrants will have the necessary documentation to prove that they are United States citizens, they will have a hard time qualifying for the same coverage that U.S.-born and long-term legal immigrants have access to.

As a result, it’s likely that recent immigrants will have to resort to expensive “safety net hospitals” that are funded largely by state and local governments, and treat all patients who walk through the door.

Immigrants will also be ineligible to participate in state-based health insurance exchanges being set up by the end of the year. While the cost of coverage could be a bit expensive for individuals with low incomes, immigrants may qualify for tax subsidies.

Though coverage options may be limited for immigrants, some may be able to qualify for city-based programs offering low cost health insurance. For instance, New York City’s Human Resources Administration offers a number of public health insurance options to green card holders, refugees, asylees and more.

Those interested in learning more about low cost health insurance options available to recent immigrants and non-U.S. citizens can check with their state and local governments.

(Image: The Consumerist)