Obama plan could boost health care for immigrants

Millions of undocumented immigrants could get a reprieve from the threat of deportation and a chance for legal employment in the U.S. under a recent proposed executive action from President Obama. Although the plan is currently under court injunction, if it’s implemented it could also boost access to health care and health insurance among immigrants—both undocumented and legal.

The implications of the President’s plan are outlined in a March 26, 2015 article in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) by Benjamin Sommers, assistant professor of health policy and economics, and Northeastern University’s Wendy Parmet, an expert on health policy and law.

For instance, the authors wrote, expanded job opportunities for undocumented workers could also expand their access to employer-sponsored health benefits. Also—if their incomes get a boost from greater access to jobs—they may be more willing to apply for private coverage.

Legal immigrants or even citizens could benefit, too. If they are part of mixed-status families (in which some members are undocumented), they may until now have shied away from seeking health care or insurance because of the perceived threat of deportation. But if Obama’s plan is implemented it may reduce their fears.

The authors cautioned that “it remains unclear exactly how these changes will play out, given that any executive policy—especially one as contentious as this one—is temporary by nature….This executive action is no substitute for a comprehensive immigrant-reform law that addresses the health needs of immigrants.”

Read the NEJM article: Health Care for Immigrants—Implications of Obama’s Executive Action