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Emergency Care Lacking for Immigrants under Affordable Healthcare Act

As mandated by federal law, hospital emergency rooms are required to evaluate and stabilize any patient that enters their waiting rooms, even if they have no way to pay for those procedures. However, the presidential healthcare overhaul known as the Affordable Care Act has stuck a blow to undocumented immigrants who once relied on the emergency room as a place where they were guaranteed medical attention.

Undocumented immigrants are not eligible to receive the taxpayer-subsidized care delivered by the ACA, meaning essential medical care may not be provided to many needy immigrants. The ACA has cut the amount of aid provided to hospitals to cover such emergency care. And the Act also requires people to prove citizenship or legal immigration for individuals to take advantage of state exchanges, which cut down on the cost of health insurance, putting undocumented immigrants in a serious bind.

Immigrants may receive access to insurance subsidies if they are granted deportation relief but this is an obstacle they must overcome in order to get the same health care they have been receiving for years. One advocate says that the government should maintain the status quo and make sure these immigrants have the same access to healthcare that they have always enjoyed.

The new healthcare measures also reinforce the notion that Hispanics are at a disadvantage and are less valued by the ACA since most of the immigrants suffering from the new measures are of Latino origin.

Previously, the federal government had been spending about $20 billion annually to reimburse hospitals. Now, that number is closer to $10 billion. As a result, undocumented immigrants will have a harder time making sure their medical needs are met.

Source: ABC News, “Healthcare Overhaul Would Cause Longer Emergency Room Lines for Some Immigrants,” Emily Deruy, Sept. 25, 2012.

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