VA expands health insurance plans to undocumented residents, but it’s still expensive – Northwest Public Broadcasting

About 105,000 people are eligible to buy health insurance in Washington. That’s because, for the first time, undocumented residents can buy health insurance through the Washington Health Plan Finder.

About 60% of undocumented Washingtonians have lived in the state for 10 or more years. However, until this year, health plans for that group were limited to children, pregnant women and people who qualify under the Alien Emergency Medical Assistance program.

Sasha Wasserstrom, policy director at the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network (VAISN), said expanded access is a big win for immigrant communities, but many people still can’t afford it.

Unlike citizens, undocumented residents are not eligible for federal tax credits. They can still benefit from Cascade Care Savings Plans, which subsidize health insurance for people enrolled in the silver or gold tier and who are below 250% of the federal poverty line.

Even so, private insurance remains prohibitive for many undocumented residents, Wasserstrom said.

What is estimated is that people will pay between $150 and $250 for an individual, as a monthly premium, Wasserstrom said. But I would look into it a little deeper.

Eligibility for government subsidies will be affected by several factors including income and family size. Representatives of the Washington Health Benefits Exchange did not respond to a request for an interview in time for this article deadline.

Many people are surprised that insurance will be so expensive and many feel it is out of reach, Wasserstrom said.

Maribel Navarro is a coordinator for the Moses Lake (Wash.) Community Health Center and works with undocumented people at a clinic in nearby Quincy. Many are barely making ends meet, she said, and cannot afford private insurance.

For them it is more like housing, food. That is their priority, she said.

The state will introduce a Medicaid-equivalent plan in July, an expansion of AppleHealth in the state. Navarro said several people she spoke with plan to wait to apply for the program.

They have priorities and this is not one of them, she said. I’m sure when it comes to July, I know there will probably be more individuals signing up [AppleHealth].

However, current funding would limit it to roughly 10,000 people, Wasserstrom said, based on information VAISN obtained from the Washington Health Care Authority.

“Which we estimate is a fraction of the number of people who are eligible,” Wasserstrom said.

However, new residents should check to see what state subsidies they may be eligible for.

It’s not perfect, but we want to make sure people have the information they need to weigh their options, Wasserstrom said.

Another challenge in implementing the program is informing residents that it exists, Navarro said, and making sure they know it won’t affect their path to citizenship.

Many in immigrant communities are hesitant to use public health programs, especially because of changes in public benefit rules in 2019 that allowed people with certain public benefits or diagnoses with some chronic conditions, without private insurance, to be counted when applying for a visa. .

We worked to create flyers that are easy to read, Navarro said. Sometimes it’s hard to have information or flyers that are too wordy or have these terms that are hard to understand and they don’t get that message across.

Applying for insurance through the state is not a public benefit and will not affect eligibility for visas or green cards or otherwise affect their path to citizenship.

More information about health care options for immigrants in Washington is available at the Washington Health Plan Finder website.

Registration is open until January 15.

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