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Do undocumented immigrants get Medicaid and what happens with the COLA increase?

Healthcare coverage options for undocumented immigrant are limited with laws blocking access to federally funded programs or subsidized insurance.

Medicaid and undocumented immigrants

There were over 22 million noncitizens in the Untied States in 2020. They accounted for around 7 percent of the total US population. A noncitizen can be either an immigrant who is legally in the US or an undocumented immigrant.

While both face challenges to accessing federal public benefit programs, undocumented immigrants are almost completely shut out of the system. Some states though have in place their own programs to provide basic support for those who haven’t attained the proper documentations to legally reside in the US. Here we’ll look at Medicaid.

Do undocumented immigrants get Medicaid?

Undocumented immigrants generally cannot receive federally funded Medicaid, but some states provide their own programs or certain services no matter an individual’s immigration status. This applies to immigrants without permanent status such as DACA recipients, TPS holders, or nonimmigrant visa holders.

They also can’t access other federal benefits programs like Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicare. However, the law says that they can access when those programs “are deemed necessary to protect life or guarantee safety in dire situations.” These include Emergency Medicaid and treatment in hospital emergency rooms. As well healthcare and nutrition programs under the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Also there are no restrictions on access to immunization programs and/or treatment of communicable disease symptoms.

Those who receive permanent status generally have to wait 5 years from the time they are authorized to reside in the US before they can access any federal benefits.

If an undocumented immigrant has the financial means they can purchase private insurance but they will not benefit from any federal subsidies. However, the uninsured rate among immigrants, including those in the US legally, is much lower than the rest of the population.

While in 2020 around 8 percent of citizens don’t have health insurance, that number jumps to over a quarter of lawfully present non-elderly immigrants and 42 percent of undocumented immigrants according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. This affects roughly a quarter of children who have immigrant parents. Those with at least one noncitizen parent are two and a half times more likely to be uninsured.

Some states provide healthcare coverage

There are six states currently that provide comprehensive state-funded coverage to all income-eligible children, no matter their immigration status. They include California, DC, Illinois, New York, Oregon and Washington. Other states like Massachusetts provide primary and preventive services to all children without any restrictions.

As of July 2022 Maine and Vermont, joined several other states in providing state-funded, Medicaid-like coverage to immigrant children. Connecticut will do so too in January 2023 for children under age nine.

There are also eighteen states that provide prenatal care to women, with Maryland the most recent to join the list. Under the American Rescue Plan states were given the option to extend Medicaid postpartum coverage from 60 days to 12 months beginning in April 2022. California and Illinois have done so and at least five other states are considering extending the coverage to mothers regardless of immigration status.

What happens with the COLA increase?

The cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) increase for 2023 is a whopping 8.7 percent. This will apply to Social Security payments for retirement, disability and survivor benefits. VA benefit recipients will also see the increase along with other government pension programs.

Medicare updated what beneficiaries will have to pay per month in 2023, but this calculation is based on costs of the program. For the first time in decade, Medicare Part B premiums dropped but Part A increased slightly. Nor is Medicaid affected by the Social Security COLA and eligibility is determined by each state.


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