Millions of immigrants may suddenly become eligible for healthcare benefits under Obamacare, if a comprehensive immigration deal passes that allows undocumented people to receive government documentation.
As the Affordable Care Act stands right now, illegal aliens are not allowed to purchase coverage through insurance exchanges, and, for the most part, they are not eligible for Medicaid, reports The Hill.
In addition, younger immigrants allowed to stay in the United States through the Dream Act are not eligible for insurance under Obamacare.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois said the nation needs to find a way for undocumented immigrants to become part of the workforce and not be a burden, and this also means allowing them to buy insurance through the exchanges if their employers don't offer it.
President Barack Obama is expected to make immigration reform a priority in his second term, and surveys show many Americans want immigrants to have a path to legalization.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, who is on the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said legalizing immigrants could help hospitals, though, because facilities would be compensated for caring for low-income populations.
"The bottom line is, these people would be contributing toward their own healthcare and not being dependent. They'd be paying taxes. I'd see that as a plus rather than a negative," he said.
Grijalva noted most undocumented workers seek care through emergency rooms or storefront clinics. However, most clinics don't accept credit or insurance.
"All of that, as public health officials say, does not contribute to the overall quality of health in any community," Grijalva said. "And besides, most often, somebody else is paying for it."
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