It's a widespread conservative meme that Obamacare will cover millions of illegal immigrants. But the law won't insure them. And while it provides emergency care to tens of thousands, you've been paying for that since 1986.
Republican Rep. Steve King has claimed Obamacare will "cover" 5.6 million "illegal aliens" by 2019, while some Politix commenters have suggested a less conservative 55 million.
In fact, Obamacare explicitly denies insurance coverage to illegal immigrants in Section 1312 (f)(3):
Access limited to lawful residents. If an individual is not, or is not reasonably expected to be for the entire period for which enrollment is sought, a citizen or national of the United States or an alien lawfully present in the United States, the individual shall not be treated as a qualified individual and may not be covered under a qualified health plan in the individual market that is offered through an Exchange.
The truth is you were already paying for some illegal immigrants' care long before Obamacare. It's because of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), signed into law by Reagan in 1986.
More than 100,000 people a year, mostly illegal immigrants, receive "emergency Medicaid" in the 7 states with most immigrants, according to a Kaiser Institute study.
That 100,000 are people with no insurance who go to the emergency room for treatment, and don't meet the immigration requirements for regular Medicaid. "Emergency Medicaid" also applies to legal immigrants who've had lawful status for less than 5 years. The cost to the taxpayer is around $2 billion a year, or 1% of the Medicaid budget.
With the income requirement for Medicaid being raised under Obamacare, at least 10,000 additional illegal immigrants will get their emergency care paid for, on top of the 100,000+ who already do. The 10,000 is extrapolated from numbers receiving regular Medicaid, which will increase around 10% in 2014.
Numbers of illegal immigrants receiving emergency Medicaid increased throughout the 2000s, up from fewer than 50,000 people in the period 2001-2004.
These immigrants aren't covered for non-emergency care or aftercare or rehabilitation. They're getting coverage to have their condition stabilized in life-threatening emergencies, or in the case of pregnant women, to have their babies delivered if they show up at ER in labor.
The takehome: 10,000+ more illegal immigrants may have their emergency care subsidized under Obamacare. Not millions, and they won't be insured.
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