Report: Affordable Care Act will do little for state's 2.6 million undocumented immigrants

Published: Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013 - 4:48 pm
Last Modified: Friday, Aug. 30, 2013 - 9:13 am

Most of California's adult illegal immigrants do not have health insurance - and likely still won't once the Affordable Care Act is implemented, according to a new study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

The Affordable Care Act will soon allow the state's uninsured to purchase relatively inexpensive coverage through an exchange. But unauthorized immigrants are explicitly prohibited from purchasing insurance on the exchange.

About 51 percent, or roughly 900,000, adult illegal immigrants in California didn't have health insurance in 2009, according to the study, which is based on the state's most comprehensive health survey. Some rely on public or safety-net care, particularly during expensive emergencies.

The financial impact for society of those immigrants remaining without insurance will be mitigated by the fact that the state's illegal immigrants are young and tend to be relatively healthy. They visit the doctor's office and emergency room less than U.S.-born citizens, the study found.

On the other hand, undocumented immigrants in California are about five times more likely to live below the poverty line than U.S.-born residents. When they do seek medical help, it is often through public services or low-cost clinics.

The California Endowment, a private, statewide health foundation, has pushed hard this year to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain insurance, and several state leaders have been supportive, but funding remains an issue.

This chart compares the rate of uninsured by residency status in California.

Source: UCLA Center for Health Policy Research

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