Open health exchange enrollment will lead to little change for illegal immigrants

Print
Email
|

by MONIKA DIAZ

WFAA

Posted on September 28, 2013 at 3:51 PM

DALLAS -- Every year, 20,000 people walk through the doors of Los Barrios Unidos Community Clinic in Dallas.

It's the place the uninsured turn to for help. No one is turned away.

"66 percent of the patients that we see do not have health insurance," said Leonor Marquez, CEO of Los Barrios Unidos Community Clinic.

Some of those patients will soon get the chance to purchase their own coverage through the federal health exchange, also commonly known as Obamacare.

But, the undocumented - those illegally living in the country - under the law, are not supposed to sign up.

"I think some of them will be disappointed that they don't have that option available to them," Marquez said.

Idalia Vanegas is one them.

"If we would have had the opportunity - if they would have included us - yes, I would have paid, even if I wouldn't be sick much," Vanegas said. "I would be paying because there will be a time when I will need insurance."

Under the Affordable Care Act, undocumented immigrants are not required to buy coverage and they won't face any penalties for not having insurance.

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Nathan Cortez looked at the issue.

"Making any overture towards undocumented immigrants would have again just poisoned the entire bill," Cortez said.

More than 1.5 million undocumented immigrants in Texas are left out of Obamacare, but they all still have access to emergency room care.

"County hospitals [and] big hospitals, like Parkland, have a legal duty to treat patients who show up in emergent condition, regardless of legal status or ability to pay, so that dynamic isn't going to change," Cortez said.

There are no numbers on how much Parkland Memorial Hospital spends on treating the undocumented, but the facility’s cost in uncompensated care for fiscal year 2012 was close to $685 million. That number includes individuals who don’t qualify for any Medicaid, Medicare, or don’t have private insurance.

The largest uninsured group in North Texas will be left without a choice to enroll Oct. 1, leaving the taxpayer, still picking up the cost.

"I think it would have been good to give the undocumented immigrants to use their own money to buy coverage," Cortez said.

E-mail mdiaz@wfaa.com

Print
Email
|