Health Care Coverage for Immigrants: A Brief History And Update

General, News May 30, 2017 0
Health Care Coverage For Immigrants: A Brief History and Update | Senior Market Advisors

The world of health care coverage for immigrants is loaded with misunderstandings. Obamacare raised a lot of questions about who taxpayer money was covering. Former President Obama wanted health care to be available for anyone who was in the country legally, but a weak verification system made it available to a good portion of illegal immigrants as well.

Myth: Obamacare allows illegal immigrants access to tax-paid health care.

Fact: Under Obamacare, immigrants with visas or other legal standings have access to tax-paid health care.

The tricky part is where Obamacare saves illegal immigrants from being “discovered” by the government if they attempt to purchase health care. That’s something that Trump will likely remove.

According to The Washington Times, $700 million in government health care costs went to undocumented immigrants under Obamacare. Obama was insistent that his law prevented this, but the verification system was flawed.

Let’s look at what the health insurance world was like before Obamacare. There is a chance that the Trump administration will lead us right back to where we were.


Before The ACA and even before Obama’s election, the major issue surrounding health care coverage for illegal immigrants was coverage for children. Children of illegal immigrants were set to have access to health care until Former President George W. Bush vetoed the expansion of that bill in 2007. As a republican, Bush does not support universal health care, and mainly vetoed the bill for financial reasons. At other points during his presidency, he did state that a new plan to take care of children was necessary, as long as funding for it was not coming from legal Americans.

A year later, Barack Obama was elected president.

The ACA/Obamacare

One of President Obama’s top priorities after entering the oval office creating a strong system for Universal Health Care. American citizens, nationals (almost always American Samoans), lawful immigrants (visas, humanitarian statuses, etc.), and children of immigrants would have access to reasonable insurance.

Qualified non-citizens, most commonly green-card holders, have to live in the United States for five years before becoming eligible for Medicare and Medicaid benefits. There are some exceptions – for instance, refugees and asylees typically do not have to wait. It is up to the states to determine whether or not children and pregnant women are required to wait.

View HealthCare.Gov’s full list of qualified groups.


President Trump has repeatedly stated that he wants universal health care, he’ll just structure it differently from Obamacare. Theoretically, this means that legal immigrants, even those with temporary green cards, should still be included. The one major difference is that illegal immigrants will not be safe from prosecution if they provide information in an effort to receive health care. That part of the plan may soon include a provision that improves the eligibility verification system and prevents illegal immigrants from gaining access to Medicare and Medicaid.

Starting In California

In 2016, California began work on a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants access to the same health care as any legal American or legal immigrant would. After Trump was elected, they started backtracking with the thought that Trump’s health care revisions could leave those undocumented immigrants in danger of deportation, because their health care would give the government access to their information.

Obamacare gave illegal immigrants the ability to sneak through the cracks and have access to government-funded health care. The right and left seem to agree on this one – we don’t want our taxes paying for illegal immigrant health care as taxes only rise.

Though Trump’s plans are a little fuzzy right now, and we’re still waiting on senate approval for the AHCA, we know he’s not a fan of illegal immigrants reaping our government benefits. Stay tuned for updates.

Anastasia Iliou
Anastasia Iliou
Content Marketing Manager at Senior Market Advisors
Anastasia graduated from Belmont University with a Bachelor's degree in Songwriting. When she's not writing, she's on a mission to visit all 50 states in the U.S (and to date has reached 27). Anastasia loves writing music, hiking, and her pet hedgehog, Luna. She loves animals (but not so much bugs) and spends her free time volunteering for The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennesee.