The increasingly fraught status of illegal immigrants and concerns over the Affordable Care Act have come together, as relatives of illegal immigrants fear the consequences of applying for Obamacare.
The Associated Press reported via CBS Houston that despite the fact that anyone in the United States legally should be eligible for Obamacare, relatives of illegal immigrants are worried about the consequences of applying.
“Immigrant advocates and the federal government have been working to reassure families that their information will not be shared with enforcement agencies,” the newswire reported.
There has even been a memo from health care authorities and changes on the HealthCare.gov website to assure those close to illegal residents that paperwork will not be used to go after their relatives.
Adonias Arevalo, a 22-year-old living in Houston with temporary legal status, had a hard time convincing his parents that he should apply for government-subsidized insurance. The family immigrated from El Salvador seven years ago. For some non-legal residents, seeing their relatives go without health insurance is preferable to the risk of deportation.
“They are afraid,” Arevalo said. “The majority of families, they know it’s something they need to do. … They’re just afraid of putting themselves out like that.”
In the end, Arevalo didn’t even qualify for Obamacare. He works at a community center where his income is too high for a tax subsidy. His deferred immigration status also makes him ineligible— he received permission to stay in the U.S. for two years this March through an Obama administration program for certain children brought into the country illegally by their parents. Instead, he has to pay 20 percent of his monthly salary for company insurance.
But the first step was applying.
“There was a little fear that this is like telling the government, ‘Hey we’re here and we’re undocumented,’” he said.
States like Texas and Arizona with a high number of immigrants have the highest numbers of uninsured residents.
In November, Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat from Colorado, urged the House to pass immigration reform legislation to allow non-legal residents access to Obamacare, mitigating insurance costs for everyone else.
“American citizens are essentially being forced to pay for the health care costs of people who are here illegally every day, until we pass comprehensive immigration reform,” he said. “We’re wondering why rates are going up ... It’s no surprise. When somebody doesn’t have insurance, their costs are shifted onto other people that do.”