The Norman Transcript


April 20, 2013

Bill would deny temporary legal status immigrants access to Medicaid



The only state-sponsored treatment option for the undocumented is a program for expectant mothers, offered through SoonerCare, Oklahoma’s Medicaid program.

Claudia Barajas, of the Latino Community Development Agency in Oklahoma City, said the lack of options, as well as limited services at clinics and long wait times at hospitals, leaves undocumented families struggling with chronic illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes.

She views the immigration bill as good news. With provisional status, immigrants can work for almost any employer and buy into a health plan if it’s offered and the worker can afford the cost. In 2014, health care reform will require employers with more than 50 full-time workers -- those averaging 30 or more hours per week -- to offer health insurance.

“It will be easier for (immigrants) to get a job and apply for health insurance,” Barajas said. “It’s still good. We are increasing job opportunities for people. We are also giving them an opportunity to get an education.”

Historically, however, non-citizens, including legalized and illegal immigrants, are more likely to work at small businesses that don’t offer health insurance, according to a 2013 report by The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a research group.

“You want everyone to have health insurance and be healthy,” Rejeske said. Referring to the immigration bill, she added, “It isn’t enough for everybody.”

Note: Chase Cook is reporting on illegal immigrants and health care as part of an “Immigration in the Heartland” fellowship sponsored by the Institute for Justice and Journalism.

Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit organization that produces in-depth and investigative journalism on important public-policy issues facing the state.


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