Although the new health care exchange system requires potential enrollees to include a slew of personal information prior to viewing pricing options — including individuals’ immigration status — none of the information reported to the site is legally allowed to be used to enforce immigration law.
In a memo entitled “Clarification of Existing Practices Related to Certain Health Care Information,” the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office explained that their policy of collecting information on immigration status from health care providers has not changed despite the new federal system. The memo explains that the ICE cannot use any of the personal information provided by individuals about their own immigration status or the status of their families as evidence of breaking immigration laws. More specifically, the memo states:
Information provided by individuals for such coverage may not be used for purposes other than ensuring the efficient operation of the Marketplace or administering the program, or making or verifying certain eligibility determinations, including veryfing the immigration status of such individuals ... ICE does not use information about such individuals or members of their household that is obtained for purposes of determining eligibility for such coverage as the basis for pursuing a civil immigration enforcement action against such individuals or members of their household.
Under the provisions outlined by the Affordable Care Act, undocumented immigrants are not able to gain access to lower health care rates, as the law applies only to those residing in the country legally.
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Still, as ThinkProgress notes, many illegal immigrants “live in ‘mixed status families’ with legal immigrants who may be eligible for enrollment.” This should make those legal immigrants living with undocumented immigrants more comfortable signing up for health care coverage.
This memo was also likely released as a reassurance to those reluctant to share personal information in order to access pricing options on the new ACA-mandated government website Healthcare.gov. The site has been riddled with problems since its launch earlier this month, and the government is trying as much as possible to ensure individuals continue signing up and its reputation remains at least somewhat intact.