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Health & Medicine

Amid Border Debates, Expanded Health Coverage Offered to Immigrants

— January 24, 2024

Regardless of legal status, many states are opting to offer U.S. immigrants health insurance.

The debate over border policy and how immigration should be handled is a fierce one, with strong opinions on both sides. While that debate in the big picture isn’t going to be settled anytime soon – or ever – there are smaller issues within the greater picture that do need to be addressed promptly.

One of those matters is the issue of health coverage for uninsured, low-income immigrants, and how these individuals are treated in the United States from a medical care perspective is another tricky matter. Although more and more states are taking steps to offer full health insurance coverage, there is still much work to be done.

At this point, there are eleven states, along with Washington D.C., that offer health insurance coverage to low-income immigrants. It doesn’t matter what the legal status is of those immigrants – they are eligible for coverage in those states regardless. While the current programs are covering more than 1 million people, it is expected that the enrollment levels will almost double just within the next couple of years and policymakers will need to keep up with this influx.

One factor that is playing a role in the move toward expanding coverage is the aftermath of the pandemic. When people don’t have health insurance, they generally don’t get healthcare – and that can be a serious problem for public health as a whole when something like a pandemic occurs, and it is only made worse by the inability of individuals to find care. As might be expected, unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. are insured at a much lower rate than that of the general population. Programs offered by states aim to bring down the uninsured number and help those who need care but can’t afford it.

Amid Border Debates, Expanded Health Coverage Offered to Immigrants
Photo by Kindel Media from Pexels

Of course, the other side of the coin is centered around the financial burden that can be created by offering so many people healthcare within a system that is already stretched thin. The cost of providing such benefits is massive, and some states – such as Illinois – have already paused their program because of worries about just how much it is going to cost. There is little doubt as to the value of this coverage to both individuals and the public as a whole, but doing the math to figure out how many dollars can be dedicated to such initiatives another story. For now, states are trying to find a balance by limiting how many people can join the program to at least offer healthcare to some while making sure the bottom-line cost doesn’t get out of control.

It seems that there are no easy answers on the topic of immigration, no matter what specific area of this issue is being discussed. Whether it is the actual control of the border or matters that impact life once immigrants are in the country, plenty of opinions are swirling around. For now, it is being seen that more and more immigrants will have health coverage while in this country as along as funding can keep up with demand, which is likely to benefit communities as a whole.


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