Obamacare: Deadline Looms for Immigration Status
Health insurance consumers must send in paperwork or risk losing their coverage
By Amy Kamp, Fri., Aug. 22, 2014
An Obamacare deadline is on the horizon, but many are unaware of it. During the program's first open enrollment period, which ran from October to May, consumers needed to show they were eligible to purchase an insurance plan in the federal marketplace. One requirement is proof of citizenship or immigration status: The marketplace is open to U.S. citizens and most other residents who are "lawfully present," but undocumented immigrants and DACA recipients – meaning those granted limited rights under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative – are ineligible for enrollment. Many enrollees were able to verify their citizenship or immigration status online and others sent in their documentation, but, as of May, there were 970,000 cases nationwide of "citizenship or data-matching errors."
Of those cases, 450,000 have been closed, and 210,000 more are "in progress." However, 52,700 Texans currently have unverified enrollment applications. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have announced that these enrollees must provide verification by Sept. 5, or they'll face the possibility of getting kicked off their plans beginning Sept. 30. Marketplace officials say they have attempted to notify them – either by phone, email, or mail – anywhere from five to seven times, but there's no guarantee that contact information is current. This means it's likely that some affected consumers don't know they're at risk of becoming uninsured fairly soon.
Additionally, it isn't always quick or easy to gather the necessary paperwork; not everyone has ready access to the Internet, and Obamacare enrollment doesn't exactly have a reputation for user-friendliness. In fact, some applicants weren't able to send in documentation because the upload feature on the Healthcare.gov website wasn't working when they were filling out their online applications.
Luckily for Austin-area residents, free resources are available. Foundation Communities, which has been offering assistance since October, has increased availability at its Highland Mall Enrollment Center. Marketplace consumers can walk in without an appointment on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11am to 7pm, or they can call 512/954-1846 or go online (www.foundcom.org) and make an appointment for a different day. People's Community Clinic and Lone Star Circle of Care also offer help with marketplace questions, either over the phone or by appointment.
Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at austinchronicle.com/opinion.