By: Gokul Menon November, 12, 2019
"Immigrants who enter this country should not further saddle our healthcare system, and subsequently, American taxpayers, with higher costs." Trump’s Presidential proclamation on October 4th aimed to exclude lawful immigrants who could not show the purchasing capacity to acquire health insurance at unsubsidized rates. The proclamation made it clear that prospective immigrants have to prove that they can afford to pay for private health insurance within 30 days of their entry. This move would have barred prospective immigrants from the country unless they could find a way to purchase private health insurance. The legality of this move hinges on the phrase “detrimental to the interests of the United States” This, in turn, is a move towards increasing the income level that new immigrants require. It also raises the question of how prospective immigrants, who do not possess a social security number, would be able to purchase health insurance in the U.S.
The average premium rates for family coverage outside of the Affordable Care Act was as high as $1,168 in 2018. Research done by Gavop, as indicated in the above table shows that over 6 million of the foreign-born population are below 100% of the poverty line. The steep drop in the foreign-born population gain is the lowest since 2008. Experts seem to point at the influence of the President’s immigration policy as a major factor in this drop. Medicaid (government subsidy) is available for the population whose income level is up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Levels. Medicaid has a 5-year waiting period for recent immigrants. These immigrants need to be in the U.S. for at least five years before they can avail Medicaid. The population whose income levels are between 138% and 400% of the Federal Poverty Level can get medical insurance under the Affordable Care Act. One can also buy an Obamacare plan, even if one’s income level is over 400% of the Federal Poverty Line. But, 100% of the monthly premium should be paid by oneself, in short, there is no subsidy.
Immigrants who are planning on moving permanently to the U.S. now find themselves in the dark, if they cannot afford expensive medical insurance. It is essential to note that this is not a move against illegal immigrants but a policy that curbs the movement of lawful immigrants. This indicates that although the move is about healthcare on the surface, there is a deeper agenda to curb immigration. Research shows that the median household income among immigrants is $56,000. This ultimately means that only wealthy immigrants can find their way into the U.S. This move might not affect immigrants who travel to the U.S. as employees since health insurance might be taken care of by their employers.
The backdrop for this requirement of private insurance is likely to further accentuate a trend in declining immigration. Research by Gavop indicates that the gains in foreign-born in the U.S. fell from 786,510 in 2016-17 to 202,856 in 2017-18. According to the Census data of 2010, among the foreign-born population, Mexicans have the highest percentage of population below the poverty level at 29%. 158,619 Mexicans also obtained lawful permanent resident status in 2017, which was lower than the previous two years. The table also indicates the level of foreign-born population over the years who are below 100% of the Federal Poverty Level.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has indicated that the wait-time to get one’s immigration applications and petitions processed has reached “crisis levels.” Their research indicates that the average case processing time over the last two years has increased by 46 percent. This indicates a considerable delay in processing legal immigration. The government has also proclaimed that it is reducing the cap on immigration to 18,000 a year. The cap was at 110,000 just two years ago. Asylum seekers who pass through more than one country (other than the country that they are traveling from) will now be refused asylum in the U.S. And, while this proclamation has been blocked, the Trump government’s immigration policies could further reduce legal immigration to the US.
Gokul works as a writer at Gavop. He holds an M.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of Hyderabad and a Bachelor’s in English from Madras Christian College. He has been a part of a couple of theatre groups, like Masquerade Youth Theatre and Theatre No. 59 and enjoyed being a part of Literary and Debating circles in Chennai. Gokul is an avid reader and has presented a few academic papers. He spends more time on Goodreads, than on any other social media platform.