115,000 people could lose health insurance unless they prove immigration status

Jordan Fabian and Ted Hesson
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An estimated 115,000 people could lose their Obamacare coverage at the end of the month because they have not provided proper documentation of citizenship or legal immigration status, the federal government said on Monday.

Those individuals, currently receiving health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, would need to provide proof of eligibility or risk losing their insurance by September 30, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said in a statement. If they provide the information after the deadline, they could be eligible for a special enrollment period to replace their canceled insurance plans.


The government has made great strides in collecting citizenship data for Obamacare enrollees in recent months. In May, there were nearly a million people who had not submitted proof of citizenship or legal residence, prompting the government to make additional efforts to confirm their status. That figure dropped to 310,000 people in August, but many cases remain unresolved.

Immigrants who lack proper documentation of their citizenship or legal immigrant status are not eligible to purchase insurance through the exchanges under President Obama's signature program. The large number of cases resolved in recent months, however, shows that many people are eligible but haven't submitted paperwork.

"There are people we have reached out to, and haven't heard from, that we still have work left to do to help them," Andy Slavitt, principal deputy administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told reporters.

It's not clear how many people the government reached out to are ineligible due to their immigration status, compared to those who have simply not filed the proper documentation.


Annette Raveneau, a spokesperson for Enroll America, a nonprofit group focused on boosting health insurance enrollment, said many naturalized citizens or immigrants who qualify for Obamacare coverage are afraid of submitting their personal information. Some people who have worked with her group who have received government notices have expressed fear that it is part of a scam.

“This is really new to our community,” Raveneau said. “If you’re in a Latino or immigrant community, you may have have never had insurance.”


The National Council of La Raza, the country's biggest network of Hispanic organizations, has also been working to raise awareness about the health insurance deadline, sending out text messages and working with community groups. Steven Lopez, a senior analyst, said that sometimes a mix-up with a name can lead to a stalled application.

"Anecdotally, one of things that I've heard is that you could have someone who maybe uses a middle initial on certain documents and it's not what the agency has on file," he said. "It doesn't mean that person is ineligible, the agency just needs further information to corroborate what they have."


Jordan Fabian is Fusion's politics editor, writing about campaigns, Congress, immigration, and more. When he's not working, you can find him at the ice rink or at home with his wife, Melissa.

Ted Hesson was formerly the immigration editor at Fusion, covering the issue from Washington, D.C. He also writes about drug laws and (occasionally) baseball. On the side: guitars, urban biking, and fiction.

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