A recent piece in the New York Times takes a look at the scope of President Obama’s bold Executive Order on immigration, which promises to shield up to five million people from the threat of deportation.
Notably absent from the president’s plan is mention of health care coverage for the immigrants who qualify for this new program. The new class of immigrants will not be eligible for Medicaid or access to insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act. According to the Times:
“The White House decision to deny health benefits also underscores how far the president’s expected actions will fall short of providing the kind of full membership in American society that activists have spent decades fighting for. The immigrants covered by Mr. Obama’s actions are also unlikely to receive public benefits like food stamps, Medicaid coverage or other need-based federal programs offered to citizens and some legal residents.”
The Executive Order, announced last night, offers temporary protection to certain undocumented immigrants who have been in this country for more than five years and who have children who are American citizens or legal U.S. residents. Those who wish to be granted this new status must register, pass a criminal background test, and pay taxes.
“You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law,” Obama said during his speech announcing the new order.
The Times article points out the troubling paradox of a plan that seeks to legally integrate undocumented immigrants into society while at the same time denying essential benefits that ensure their well-being and their ability to function as productive members of society.
The piece quotes Angel Padilla, a health policy analyst at the National Immigration Law Center, “We would all benefit if more people had access to health care services.”
Health benefits for immigrants have been a central question in the debate over immigration reform. A new report from the Guttmacher Institute highlights the pressing need for health coverage for immigrants, particularly for women of reproductive age.
Among women aged 15-44, 40% of the 6.6 million noncitizen immigrants are uninsured. This number is significantly higher for the large percentage of noncitizen immigrant women living below the poverty line.
Lack of health insurance is linked to adverse sexual and reproductive health outcomes, including unintended pregnancy, STIs, and cervical and other cancers that could be easily reduced through proper screening.