Word spread this week that some of the benefits of the nation’s health care law will not extend to the thousands of undocumented immigrants given reprieve from deportation with the Obama administration’s deferred action program. This puts these individuals in an uncomfortable position where they have permission to be in the United States, but cannot take advantage of all the programs available for others.
The New York Times was the first to report about a little-noticed rule put in place by the Department of Health and Human Services that excludes the beneficiaries of “deferred status” from the health insurance benefits. While the Obama administration was clear that those who qualified for deferred action would have a “lawful presence” which would allow them to work legally and open the doors for other benefits like driver’s licenses, the HHS directive specifically excludes this group from the “lawful presence” category.
The department determined that those with deferred status are not eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The HHS also stated that those with deferred status would not be eligible for health insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.
The directive is effective immediately, before any deferred action recipients may apply for a temporary health insurance program for those with pre-existing conditions. Those who need, but cannot receive, subsidies to purchase health insurance are likely to turn to the more expensive option of going to the emergency room for health care. Because deferred status grants qualified undocumented immigrants the ability to work, they would be eligible for insurance through their employers. But, unfortunately, not all jobs provide this benefit.
Source: CNN, The New York Times