September 18, 2013
The Affordable Care Act, affectionately and derisively and forever known as Obamacare, opens for enrollment in two weeks. Americans remain deeply confused about what the law means and how it will impact their lives. Which makes sense; the ACA is a wide-ranging and complex law, and it will mean different things for different people. If you purchase your individual insurance on the open market, or if you have a pre-existing condition, or if you are a 22 year old college senior on your parents’ plan, it means quite a lot. For undocumented immigrants, it unfortunately means very little. That’s because the Obama administration specifically asked Senate Democrats to remove any coverage for undocumented immigrants from the bill back in 2009, to avoid Republican charges that the bill “secretly funded illegal immigrants.” This exclusion was also baked in to the currently stalled senate immigration bill, and it is bad policy for all parties.
When people lack access to primary care, small problems become large problems, large problems become emergencies, and all of the sudden a treatable condition becomes an ER visit. And if the ER bills can’t be paid by the patient, those costs get passed along. The result is poorer health outcomes for undocumented immigrants and higher medical expenses for everyone else.