Health Care for the Undocumented: What Obama's Executive Order Will Not Do

California looks poised to especially gain from President Obama’s executive order on immigration, to be announced in a speech tonight. At 2.6 million, California has the highest number of undocumented immigrants in the country. According to a recent USC study, over half of those immigrants have been in the United States for over ten years, a group to whom Obama is predicted to grant new protections tonight. 

The state also has a high percentage of undocumented parents of children with citzenship, another group widely touted as to be protected.


At the same time, while these new protections seem likely to protect against deportation and to ensure the ability to work, they don’t appear to include health care coverage. According to the Congressional Budget Office, of the country’s 11.2 million undocumented, 7-8 million will be left uninsured under the Affordable Care Act.  

And that decision may end up affecting insurance sign-up for their legal-status children, as well. In a recent report the LA Times noted that the American-born children of undocumented immigrants seem reluctant to sign up for health insurance out of concern that it might lead to their parents being deported.  Some 600,000 Latinos in California remain uninsured despite qualifying for care under the Affordable Care Act.

Last weekend Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, in a Google hangout interview with prominent Latina bloggers, addressed this point: ““Folks should not be questions will be asked, this is not an immigration issue.”

The President’s announcement today should reassure those children that their parents are safe. And yet, in denying those parents health care, this order effectively creates divisions within the very families it means to keep together. Are children likely to get insurance if their parents remain unable to? Even with the threat of penalties for the uninsured, probably not. As one such young person said in the LA Times story, “We’ve always done things together as a family.”

In his most recent column in The Tidings, LA Archbishop José Gomez writes about the need for an immigration reform that “enables our brothers and sisters to live with the dignity that God intends for them.” In taking away fear, Obama’s order is clearly a step in the right direction. But there are still more steps to take. 

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Michael Barberi
4 years ago
Many illegal immigrants have been in the U.S. ever since their early childhood when they came with one or both parents and entered the U.S. illegally. Many of these illegal immigrants, now adults, are married with children born in the U.S. Many of them are single parents now because the husband or husbands abandoned them. Many of these single parents are poor and as such they qualify for Medi-Cal (California Medicaid). The illegal immigrants that are working, and not on Medi-Cal, take themselves and their children to the emergency room when they have the Flu or an injury. Hence, the U.S. healthcare system pays for serious illness and conditions. Clearly, this is not the same as full healthcare coverage. However, others have SS cards and pay for health insurance. Can anyone tell me exactly what will change under the President's executive order? Keep in mind that most illegal immigrants in California are not deported by the authorities. Most cities in California are sympathetic to illegal immigrants and ignore illegals who are living a normal life. As for felons, they are deported but most of them merely return to the U.S. over and over again with impunity. Witness the recent murder of the police officers in California by an illegal immigrant who had a long criminal record. We need a comprehensive immigration law that includes a path to citizenship for the 10-12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. and we must secure the border so that it does not become a magnet for another 10-12 million.
Jedediah Smith
4 years ago
Path to citizenship so we can have a permanent democratic party welfare state? Kiss your religious liberties goodbye then.
Bobby Dunes
4 years ago
Technically under the healthcare reform, anyone who pay taxes will be required to sign up for a health insurance plan. In this case, just with the IRS, race and religion really doesn't matter as long as you follow their rules. With most not-for-profit hospitals, they will treat anyone who needs care but this should not be part of the cost of "immigrants" since there are always will be a grey area that needs to be governed.


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