Given the recent influx of immigrants into California, it is understandable that there are some misconceptions about benefits and Medi-Cal, and what arriving immigrants are able to receive. Most immigrants must comply with the same regulations as those born and raised in the United States, and will receive identical or comparable benefits after they do so.
Which Plans Are Available?
Lawfully present immigrants are not immune to the provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that states that everyone must carry health coverage if they do not qualify for an exemption. Even certain nonimmigrant visa holders, such as F and J visa recipients, must carry coverage, as they are among the lawfully present in the country. Anyone who is lawfully present in the United States may purchase a plan either under Covered California or Medi-Cal, while the undocumented may only obtain coverage under Medi-Cal.
Unlike the lawfully present, the undocumented are not required to carry health insurance coverage, but they are also not subject to the shared responsibility payment if they lack it. Immigrants should be aware of the fact that unscrupulous tax preparers are prone to prey on those who are unaware of this fact. Undocumented immigrants are able to apply for Medi-Cal, but are not able to obtain full-scope Medi-Cal unless they adjust to a satisfactory immigration status (in other words, until they obtain legal status). In the meantime, they may receive emergency and pregnancy care, as well as long-term care if necessary. There has been some support for full-scope Medi-Cal to be extended to the undocumented, but as of this writing nothing has come to fruition.
Special Issues For The Undocumented
Many current undocumented immigrants may wonder about their financial ability to obtain insurance – after all, many jobs are not open to them. Financial assistance is available for those who qualify, but even that may give some pause: many immigration statuses require that an individual not become a “public charge” – in other words, become dependent on governmental assistance. If an individual does become a public charge, they may become subject to deportation. However, Covered California explicitly states that requiring financial assistance in order to obtain insurance may not be counted against you or your family for immigration purposes.
Another major concern is the information required by the application. Many fear that any admission of a lack of lawful status will be forwarded to Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) and lead to summary deportation. While following that path would not, in theory, be against the law, California has shown no inclination to try. Medi-Cal states that identifying information is only used to assess eligibility, and there is no evidence to show that it is being used any other way. The state also explicitly states that mixed families should still apply under their respective programs.
Contact An Experienced Los Angeles Refugee Attorney
Navigating health insurance law can be an extremely difficult endeavor at the best of times, when one does not have to contend with immigration questions. In this situation, seeking the advice of an experienced Los Angeles immigration attorney can help clear up confusion and get you and your family on the right path. The Law Offices of Joshua L. Goldstein, P.C. boasts attorneys with years of experience in this area, and the knowledge and patience to help you clarify your options. Contact our office today to set up a initial consultation.