Obamacare requires clear immigration eligibility before Sept. 5

One of the initial challenges of the new health care law was the great percentage of people whose eligibility was clouded by one factor or another. 2 million cases out of the 8 million enrollees were potentially unqualified for taxpayer-subsidized health insurance. Even after resolving most of these cases, some people’s eligibility may be hampered by their immigration status.

People living in the country illegally are not eligible for Obamacare coverage. That is the population the Health and Human Services Department is working hard to exclude in the recent massive mail wave sent to about 310, 000 people with unresolved cases, out of the total 8 million individuals enrolled in the program. The letter exhorts enrollees to upload their proper immigration materials to the HealthCare.gov website or mail them by the hard deadline of Sept.5, that is less than four weeks from now. If disobedient or found ineligible, people will see an end to their coverage by Sept. 30.

Many people worry with reason that they may be disqualified for coverage for irrational issues, such as record-keeping problems or even losing the letter in the mail. But, according to the HHS, this won’t be the only way of reaching people with unresolved cases. People with potential eligibility problems should expect phone calls and emails as well, and through local organizations, even direct home visits. Because of the Hispanic immigrant majority, the HHS is sending letters in Spanish as well as in English.

This sounds a bit overwhelming, but may be a prudent way for the government to tackle the issue that congressional Republicans raised when Obamacare was first getting started: how to really exclude ineligible people. The approved health care reform explicitly limits the use of taxpayer money to subsidize those people residing in the U.S. illegally or non-permanently.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services press release, the 310,000 enrollees who will receive letters are people who have not responded to several other previous attempts to obtain their documents. The press release also alerts that receiving a letter does not necessarily mean that a person is ineligible for coverage, rather that they have not reported or misreported information such as Social Security or Permanent Resident Card number.

“We want as many consumers as possible to remain enrolled in marketplace coverage, so we are giving these individuals a last chance to submit their documents before their coverage through the marketplace will end,” Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in the press release.

Through this extensive search for ineligible applicants the government plans to once and for all disqualify all illegal immigrants currently enrolled, who cannot even purchase health insurance through the exchanges with their own money. Two states with large Latino populations –Texas and Florida –top the list of unresolved cases. California and New York, which run their own insurance programs, have not yet announced if they plan to implement a similar measure.

The issue of health care accessibility for illegal immigrants is an ongoing debate. To compensate for the healthcare needs of this population, some hospitals and large healthcare facilities provide free or low-cost services to illegal immigrants. Small nonprofit clinics, such as those run by medical students, also try to serve this group.

By law, most Americans are required to have health insurance, on penalty of fines. Obamacare provides subsidized coverage to people with no access to health insurance on the job, most of who receive help with their premiums and less often on their copays and deductibles. To qualify, however, one has to meet a series of requirements dependent on income, family size, hometown location and other factors.

Later in the year, the HHS will ask about income eligibility, so people should expect letters for this as well.

To verify that all documents are in order and have been received, consumers can contact HealthCare.gov at 1-800-318-2596.

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