In order for an individual to become a naturalized citizen and live in the United States, they have to jump through many different hoops. However, many people feel the process is worth the end result, as they will then be able to enjoy the same rights and privileges as natural born U.S. citizens.
One of those rights is the ability to purchase healthcare coverage underneath U.S. healthcare laws.
Unfortunately, recent changes to those laws have caused at least 423,000 immigrants to lost their healthcare coverage, an increase of 400%.
Even more unsettling, is that this statistic is only for the 37 states where applications go through the federal system. For the other 13 states, including immigrant-rich California, the numbers are unknown, as they each have their own systems.
With such numbers demonstrating the importance of this issue, it is paramount to understand what the new changes are and how they are affecting immigrants.
What are the new changes that are causing the increase in the loss of healthcare coverage?
In 2015, after healthcare was expanded in the previous year, the U.S. government began requiring all immigrants to verify and prove their eligibility for healthcare within a 95-day window.
Even under extremely favorable circumstances, a 95-day window can be simply too short to allow an immigrant enough time to gather what they need to prove their eligibility.
Under unfavorable circumstances, such a window all but guarantees an immigrant cannot make the deadline. For example, several problems can arise during the verification process, including,
>no clear definition of what documents are needed for the verification
>no explanation on why a verification application failed
>no access to scanners to make digital copies of required documents
>trouble uploading those documents to the government database
>inconsistent name with an application (i.e. using a nickname by accident or inverting the first and last name)
>government databases being down for maintenance
>the complexity of the form being used
>credit history issues
In each of these cases, the ability to sort out the problem is almost unattainable under the 95-day window.
Why are the changes being made?
The intent behind the 95-day window was to prevent undocumented immigrants from taking advantage of the U.S. health insurance program and any of the possible discounts.
However, immigrant advocate groups claim this intent does not hold, as undocumented immigrants who applied for government benefits would draw attention to themselves and be at risk of deportation.
Instead, legal, documented immigrants are bearing the brunt of the consequences.
Who is being affected?
As it is currently being implemented, the eligibility window disproportionately affects the Latino and Hispanic population, since this group represents the largest group of qualifying immigrants.
This fact is unfortunate, as the number of uninsured Latino and Hispanic immigrants had steadily dropped from 44% in 2013 to 28% in early 2015.
Do the changes affect other areas?
Yes. In particular, the changes affect tax filing and tax credits. Immigrants who are deemed ineligible for healthcare are also no longer eligibility for the accompanying tax credit.
This fact has led many immigrants to receive notices that they must pay back tax credits they had previously received, and pay back with interest. Such situations can leave many worse off than if they had never applied in the first place.
Whatever the reasons for these recent changes, there is a growing push to revert them. People who go uninsured still need to seek the services of a healthcare provider, such as emergency services. Because they are uninsured, the cost is then pushed off onto the system and those who are insured. These costs are a major reason why the Affordable Care Act was passed in the first place, and should be a reminder of why allowing individuals to go uninsured is usually an unwise choice.
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Disclaimer: Nothing in relation to the enclosed information should be construed and or considered as legal advice for any individual, entity, case, or situation. The following information is prepared for advertisement use only. The information is intended ONLY to be general and should not be relied upon for any specific situation. For legal advice on your specific situation, we encourage you to consult an attorney experienced in the area of Immigration Law.