ACA brings legal immigrants opportunities as well as responsibilities

December 16, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC (December 16, 2013)--The Affordable Care Act (ACA) does not expand access to health insurance for undocumented immigrants but may pave the way for many legal immigrants who have trouble obtaining this crucial coverage, concludes a report released today by the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services (SPHHS). The report outlines the opportunities as well as the obligations that the federal health reform law will bring to lawfully present immigrants, people who have obtained green cards or visas allowing them to work, live and study in the United States.

"Most people do not realize that legal immigrants currently face many obstacles to obtaining health insurance," said Leighton Ku, PhD, MPH the author of the new report and director of the Center for Health Policy Research at SPHHS. "Such immigrants are three times as likely to be uninsured as those born in the United States." Without health coverage, they--like other uninsured Americans--often delay or never get potentially life-saving health care, he said.

This issue brief, which was funded by the Commonwealth Fund, notes that the federal health reform law might help as many as six million "lawfully present" immigrants either find affordable health insurance through health insurance exchanges or enroll in Medicaid. The issue brief outlines two main benefits for legal immigrants under the health reform law:

First, legal immigrants that do not have health insurance will be able to sign up for coverage through the new exchanges, online marketplaces where people can shop for a health plan. Depending on their income and other factors, legal immigrants may be able to qualify for federal tax credits that will make a health plan more affordable, Ku said.

Second, many lawfully present immigrants will also become eligible for Medicaid under the ACA reforms. Under a Supreme Court ruling on the ACA, states can open up Medicaid programs to cover many more low-income adults. To date, about half the states have opted to expand their Medicaid programs. Legal immigrants living in the expanding states might find they qualify for Medicaid coverage if they meet income and other requirements, according to the report.

Under the ACA, the new health coverage benefits will not begin until January 2014 but the analysis notes that legally present immigrants can log onto a health insurance exchange, either one run by a state or by the federal government, to look at their options and shop for coverage now.

The issue brief also notes that many low-income immigrants speak a language other than English and may have no easy way to access to the internet. Ku says that many states have put in place community based navigators that can translate the details of a health plan or the cost-sharing obligations from English into another language. And such navigators can help lower income but legal immigrants sign up for a plan or gain access to Medicaid coverage--if they are eligible.

The brief also notes that along with the improved access to health care, the law will also impose new responsibilities on legally present immigrants. For example, like citizens, they will have the obligation to obtain health coverage. If they do not--just like citizens--they will have to pay a penalty in the form of increased taxes. There are exemptions to this rule for those too poor to buy insurance even at affordable rates but the mandate was designed to encourage most people--and that now includes legal immigrants--to sign up for coverage, Ku said.
-end-
The issue brief, "Strengthening Immigrants' Health Access: Current Opportunities," can be viewed at the SPHHS Department of Health Policy's website by clicking here. A blog post on the same subject can be viewed at the Commonwealth Fund website by clicking here.

About the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services:

Established in July 1997, the School of Public Health and Health Services brought together three longstanding university programs in the schools of medicine, business, and education and is now the only school of public health in the nation's capital. Today, more than 1,100 students from nearly every U.S. state and more than 40 nations pursue undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral-level degrees in public health. The school now offers an online Master of Public Health, MPH@GW, which allows students to pursue their degree from anywhere in the world. http://sphhs.gwu.edu/

George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health

Related Public Health Articles from Brightsurf:

COVID-19 and the decolonization of Indigenous public health
Indigenous self-determination, leadership and knowledge have helped protect Indigenous communities in Canada during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, and these principles should be incorporated into public health in future, argue the authors of a commentary in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) http://www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.200852.

Public health consequences of policing homelessness
In a new study examining homelessness, researchers find that policy such a lifestyle has massive public health implications, making sleeping on the street even MORE unhealthy.

Electronic health information exchange improves public health disease reporting
Disease tracking is an important area of focus for health departments in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pandemic likely to cause long-term health problems, Yale School of Public Health finds
The coronavirus pandemic's life-altering effects are likely to result in lasting physical and mental health consequences for many people--particularly those from vulnerable populations--a new study led by the Yale School of Public Health finds.

The Lancet Public Health: US modelling study estimates impact of school closures for COVID-19 on US health-care workforce and associated mortality
US policymakers considering physical distancing measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 face a difficult trade-off between closing schools to reduce transmission and new cases, and potential health-care worker absenteeism due to additional childcare needs that could ultimately increase mortality from COVID-19, according to new modelling research published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Access to identification documents reflecting gender identity may improve trans mental health
Results from a survey of over 20,000 American trans adults suggest that having access to identification documents which reflect their identified gender helps to improve their mental health and may reduce suicidal thoughts, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Study estimates mental health impact of welfare reform, Universal Credit, in Great Britain
The 2013 Universal Credit welfare reform appears to have led to an increase in the prevalence of psychological distress among unemployed recipients, according to a nationally representative study following more than 52,000 working-age individuals from England, Wales, and Scotland over nine years between 2009-2018, published as part of an issue of The Lancet Public Health journal on income and health.

BU researchers: Pornography is not a 'public health crisis'
Researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) have written an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health special February issue arguing against the claim that pornography is a public health crisis, and explaining why such a claim actually endangers the health of the public.

The Lancet Public Health: Ageism linked to poorer health in older people in England
Ageism may be linked with poorer health in older people in England, according to an observational study of over 7,500 people aged over 50 published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

Study: Public transportation use linked to better public health
Promoting robust public transportation systems may come with a bonus for public health -- lower obesity rates.

Read More: Public Health News and Public Health Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.