NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

How Do Illegal Immigrants Fare Under ObamaCare?

August 3, 2010

Senator Tom Coburn's (R-Okla.) office recently issued a policy paper titled, "Bad Medicine," on the new federal health care law that's worth reading.  Among the gems is a finding that immigrants in some ways get a better deal than U.S. citizens and legal residents under the new health reform law, says health economist Devon Herrick. 

For example: 

  • If you are a legal resident alien you will be required to obtain the same government mandated health coverage that U.S. citizens must obtain.
  • However, if you have been here for less than five years, and if your income falls below 133 percent of the federal poverty level, you will not be allowed to enroll in Medicaid -- as U.S. citizens will be required to do.
  • Instead, you will be able to obtain highly subsidized insurance (paying a premium, say, of 10 cents on the dollar) in a health insurance exchange.
  • If Medicaid insurance is lower-quality insurance, you will have access to better insurance than a U.S. citizen with the same income! 

If you are an undocumented immigrant you will not be subject to the individual insurance mandate and you will not be fined if you fail to purchase health insurance, nor will you be allowed to enroll in Medicaid or buy insurance in the health insurance exchange, says Herrick. 

However, hospital emergency rooms will not be able to deny you health care if you are in need.  What makes this surprising is that the most common argument for an individual mandate is that the uninsured should have to contribute to their own health care instead of getting it for free in the emergency room.  This is why U.S. citizens will be required to pay hefty fines if they do not obtain insurance.  If you are here illegally, however, you get to escape that penalty, says Herrick. 

Source: Devon Herrick, "How Do Illegal Immigrants Fare Under ObamaCare?" National Center for Policy Analysis, August 2, 2010. 

For text:  

For Coburn report: 


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