Healthcare Noticeably Absent from Immigration Reform


With Washington on the cusp of major immigration reform, 11 million undocumented immigrants have the potential to become U.S. citizens. However, they may not have access to several health insurance options.
According to a report by Saludify, undocumented immigrants are currently excluded from most federal public benefits, except for emergency Medicaid, community health clinics and public health services. Even with immigration form, their medical status will remain, for the most part, unchanged.
Sonal Ambegaokar, a health policy attorney for the National Immigration Law Center, said she is worried about the state of healthcare for undocumented immigrants who seek citizenship. She said, “It seems if you exclude 11 million people from healthcare, we’re going to end up paying for that both now and later somehow.”
Health and Civil Rights Policy Projects at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Director Jennifer Ng’andu called the bill’s provisions a disappointment to immigration reform advocates.
It concerns NCLR that immigrants who finally earned a chance to be on the roadmap to citizenship will wait at least ten years before having any means to affordable health coverage under the Senate legislation,” she said.
The bill allows them legally obtain health insurance through their employers, however, many undocumented workers have jobs in areas like agriculture, construction and retail, which normally do not offer insurance, the report said.
To receive health insurance, undocumented immigrants could wait up to 10 years for citizenship.
Ambegaokar said that most immigrants want to pay for health insurance, and that they may as well be allowed access to it while the U.S. works toward granting them a path to citizenship.
According to a study conducted in California and Texas, offering undocumented immigrants health insurance would benefit the healthcare system, because they typically use less services that U.S. citizens. 
(Photo by Spirit of america / Shutterstock)