Immigrant Visas to be Restricted for the Insured
WESLACO – Immigrants seeking entry into the U.S. will soon be required to have health insurance or prove they can afford it if allowed an immigrant visa.
It would affect spouses, children and parents U.S. residents want to bring into the country. Experts say this requirement could shift the demographic of legal immigrants.
Manuel Cavazos came into the U.S. during the amnesty period in 1986. A few years later, he brought his wife.
He says, "I brought over my wife, but it wasn't very difficult then. That was about 12 years ago, and right now I'm not sure how it is. I think that it's pretty hard."
The process he was familiar with is changing.
The proclamation states it aims to reduce the $35 billion in hospital unreimbursed services.
It also read, "Notably, data show that lawful immigrants are about three times more likely than United States citizens to lack health insurance."
Starting Nov. 3, immigrants brought to the country will need to get health insurance 30 days after they arrive or prove they can afford it. That could have wide-reaching effects believe policy analysts at the non-partisan DC-based think-tank Migration Policy Institute.
"We estimate that this new health insurance proclamation could affect up to 375,000 immigrants," explained Senior Policy Analyst Julia Gelatt.
They arrived at that estimate by looking at federal data.
"So we looked at people in the American Community Survey the Census Bureau data said who we estimate to have green cards. And what we found was 65% of them either did not have any health insurance at all or they had health insurance that wouldn't count under this new proclamation," Gelatt explained.
The rule would mainly affect family-based immigrants from abroad like a wife or child.
Gelatt says there's about 4 million green card petitioners in the U.S. The new requirements would affect them and those not yet in the country.
She clarified, "Basically anyone who hasn't been granted their visa by the Department of State to come to the U.S. and obtain their green card would be affected by this rule starting on November 3rd."
Changes will not affect immigrants coming here with an employment offer that includes healthcare options or those with a relative who can add them to their private insurance.
Insurance through the Affordable Care Act or subsidies and tax credits under it will not count.
The rule will affect immigrants with low income. This concerns many familiar with the poverty levels in Mexico.
Cavazos questioned, "Well, actually that's why they're coming from Mexico because of the economy. And then they want them to get their insurance right away, but from where? They come suffering just to get here, so no. I don't know."
While the new requirement is set to begin Nov. 3, there's no implementation language yet.
The Department of State will need to issue guidance to consular officers on how to implement this executive action.
Gelatt says there are two things to keep in mind: legal challenges are accepted and could halt or stop the rule from being implemented.
She also says the easiest path is to purchase health insurance that's available to buy from abroad.
The quality varies, but she encourages research before committing to any plans.