About one-third of the 40 million individuals who are currently residing in the U.S. but were born elsewhere, lack health insurance. Many immigrants in Arizona and the rest of the nation are concerned about what might happen if they sign up for the new health insurance program. The new website healthcare.gov has launched and is being used by millions throughout the country in order to become properly insured. However, this new website has led to hesitation for many immigrants.
For instance, some undocumented immigrant adults may have documented children who are now required to have health insurance. Many worry that if they abide by the law and complete the online application process for their child, it will be exposed that they are undocumented and this will lead to negative consequences for the adult.
One specific example is that of 22 year old Adonias Arevalo. Arevalo who lives and works in Texas, has temporary legal status and is eligible for health care under the new plan. While he was anxious to get signed up, his parents had concerns. Arevalo's parents are undocumented aliens who came to the U.S. from El Salvador approximately seven years ago. They worried that once Arevalo had entered his personal information into healthcare.gov, the couple would receive unwanted attention from immigration officials.
However, the website itself has taken steps to calm these fears by posting a statement that promises that the information provided on the website will be used for insurance purposes only and will not be forwarded to immigration authorities. Furthermore, immigrant advocates and the government have been working together in order to spread this message.
In addition, after the website's launch, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) issued its own statement. This publication was meant to explain that the information obtained through the website would “not be used to pursue immigration cases against anyone in the country illegally.”
Meanwhile, it is vital for the success of the new health care program that these eligible immigrants take part in the process. Many documented immigrants are younger and in overall good health. In order to fund coverage for older individuals who require more expensive and more comprehensive care, younger and healthier individuals must sign up for coverage and pay their premiums.
Even without the immigration concerns, the website has seen its fair share of obstacles since its launch in October. In its first month, nearly one out of every seven users deemed the site to be unusable. Furthermore, almost half of all website users said that the site was “not working well.”
However, as the weeks went by, more and more people have been able to sign up for insurance via the website. The coverage will begin as early as January 1 for those who have been successful in signing up for health care, but there are still many people who have yet to complete the process.
As the time frame for open enrollment becomes smaller, it will be interesting to see how many more immigrants sign up for coverage. The history between the government and immigrants has been far from perfect and it is not unreasonable to assume that many immigrants will make the difficult decision to forego health care in order to avoid any potential, or perceived, immigration consequences.