Immigration status could block children from public healthcare
July 3, 2011
As many as 220,000 uninsured children in California will be excluded from health care reform programs because of their or their parents’ immigration status, according to an analysis released Thursday. [CaliforniaWatch]
When fully implemented in 2014, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will expand health insurance to millions of uninsured Californians, California Watch said. But about 20 percent of the state’s 1 million uninsured children will be left out because they or their parents are illegal immigrants, researchers at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research said.
“The Affordable Care Act doesn’t really go to covering all kids,” said Shana Alex Lavarreda, director of health insurance studies at the center and an author of the report. “It doesn’t get to that 100 percent coverage mark that we’ve been trying to get to.”
The findings, based on data from the 2007 California Health Interview Survey, count respondents who were non-citizens without green cards as undocumented immigrants.
Researchers estimate that 170,000 children will be barred from enrolling in Medi-Cal or purchasing private insurance in the California Health Benefit Exchange because they are illegal immigrants. Federal law prohibits the use of federal funds to provide health care services for illegal immigrants, California Watch added.
An additional 10,000 children are legal immigrants and have household incomes qualifying them for Medi-Cal, but they have been in the U.S. fewer than five years, making them ineligible for the federally funded program, according to California Watch.
If the state because of budget reductions cuts coverage for these recent immigrants, an additional 98,000 children currently enrolled in Medi-Cal will be dropped. They could, however, purchase insurance through the exchange when it opens.
Researchers estimate that 40,000 uninsured children could potentially be excluded from programs because of their parents’ citizenship status. Parents who are not citizens and do not have green cards do not qualify for the programs, but they may not know their citizen children do.
Some parents may fear jeopardizing their own immigration status by enrolling their children in public programs, said Doreena Wong, project director of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center’s Health Access Project to California Watch.
“There is this pervasive fear among the undocumented,” she said. “There’s this fear that if you take any kind of public benefits, including Medi-Cal or Healthy Families, that when you try to adjust your status and get your green card, you’ll be denied.”