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National Cancellations Of Immigrants' Health Insurance Not Affecting Those in Kentucky

Phalinn Ooi/Creative Commons

Hundreds of thousands of people who enrolled in health insurance coverage through the federal marketplace established by the Affordable Care Act lost coverage this year because of problems with their immigration and citizenship status.

But for immigrants who have settled in Kentucky, there has been no similar enrollment problem or wave of cancellations, state officials say.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced earlier this month that more than 400,000 individuals' policies were canceled in 2015, leaving many without access to care.

The cancellations are the result of a portion of the law enforced for the first time this year that provides a 95-day window to resolve citizenship and immigration issues and still be eligible for coverage. National advocates have said the Obama administration's verification process is flawed, and that technical problems have brought about undue cancellations.

Carrie Banahan, executive director of Kynect, said the state verifies that an individual is lawfully present or a U.S. citizen through the Federal Data Services Hub.

At present, there are 24,303 immigrants enrolled in Medicaid and 3,460 are enrolled in a qualified health plan through Kynect.

“If we’re able through the Federal Data Services Hub to verify that you’re lawfully present or you’re a U.S. citizen, it’s immediate,” Banahan said of enrollment in coverage or a premium subsidy under the federal law.

Because Kentucky established its own health insurance exchange, it has largely avoided the kinds of technical issues that led to the cancellations. If further documentation is required from an individual who immigrated to Kentucky to verify status, he or she can submit it to any of the entities Kynect contracts with in person, online or by mail. Ultimately, Kynect is the final arbiter, Banahan said.

Louisville immigration attorney Daniel Alvarez said there may be health or financial consequences for immigrants when there is a delay in verifying their status. He said it’s unjust when a third party doesn’t do its job correctly or when there is a miscommunication that results in someone not receiving health benefits.

“We as a society and as taxpayers want to make sure that the right people are providing the right documentation showing that they in fact are eligible for the benefits under the Affordable Care Act,” Alvarez said. “And so those who are lawfully present do have that right, and we want to make sure lawfully present people are the ones receiving those benefits under the law because they’re entitled.”

Alvarez said he hasn’t had any clients contact him with complaints about canceled health insurance policies.

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