By Rachel StoltzFoos
Taxpayers are subsidizing health care for illegal immigrants in counties across the country, despite a provision in the Affordable Care Act explicitly prohibiting government-subsidized care for illegal immigrants.
Hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants in 20 of the 25 U.S. counties with the largest illegal immigrant populations are able to sign up for health care benefit programs paid for by taxpayers that act as health insurance, according to a Wall Street Journal survey of those 25 counties. And at least 750,000 illegal immigrants are receiving care in those counties, costing taxpayers more than $1 billion.
Most of the programs allow residents of the county to sign up without regard to their immigration status, and some are explicitly intended for immigrants. Those who sign up for the plans can receive free doctor visits, shots, prescription drugs and surgeries and other benefits, depending on the program.
President Obama’s healthcare law prohibits illegal immigrants from signing up for subsidized plans, but the counties surveyed by The WSJ are treating them anyway, reasoning the reduced emergency room costs will be more cost effective than denying them coverage.
“If federal programs exclude people who live here and get sick here, then someone has to care for them,” a Montgomery County, Md., Democratic council member told The WSJ. “We all pay anyway.”
New York City provided nonemergency care for 208,000 illegal immigrants last year in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx at a cost of about $400 million. Los Angeles has assigned 135,000 illegal immigrants a “medical home” that coordinates their government health care, as well as an ID card and access to resources and a hotline.
Federal lawmakers and all five presidential candidates have voiced support for the prohibition, and the Department of Health and Human Services took active steps to remove 200,000 people who could not prove legal status from the health insurance rolls last year.
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