Health Coverage to End Without Proof of Citizenship or Legal Residency

Wall Street Journal – by LOUISE RADNOFSKY

The Obama administration moved Tuesday to cut off health insurance for up to 310,000 people who signed up through the system unless they can provide documents in the next few weeks showing they are U.S. citizens or legal residents.

Those individuals have until Sept. 5 to send in additional information that could confirm they are in the U.S. legally, a condition of using the online insurance exchanges to obtain coverage.  

Officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which administers the 2010Affordable Care Act, said they would tell insurers to terminate health policies for people who don’t respond, starting Sept. 30.

CMS and its contractors are still trying to dig out from technological flaws Millions of users had difficulties using the site to shop for insurance when it launched last fall, but deeper problems remain within the system, including the ability to use databases held by various federal agencies to check people’s eligibility for coverage.

Federal officials have said the application system wasn’t able to determine citizenship and immigration status for almost one million people of the 5.4 million who had obtained plans through by the time the main enrollment period closed in mid-April, because the information in their application didn’t match the data the federal government had on file.

Immigration status has been one of the most politically charged aspects of the law. During congressional debate, supporters added a provision banning people living in the U.S. without authorization from using the exchanges to buy coverage and from receiving tax credits that many lower-income Americans and legal residents can get.

Some immigration activists grudgingly accepted the restriction as necessary to maintain support for the legislation, but said it was spiteful to prohibit people from using the site entirely.

At the same time, Republicans critical of the law said they didn’t believe the federal government was capable of preventing widespread fraud and have pointed to the data problems as proof of their predictions.

CMS officials said 970,000 people had applications with inconsistencies. Around 450,000 cases had since been resolved, and another 210,000 had responded to notices asking for more data. Letters were mailed Tuesday to another 310,000 people who don’t appear to have responded, with warnings that they must send in documents now or lose their insurance. The agency also said people would get additional letters, emails and phone calls based on the contact details they had provided in their application.

CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner said the agency was giving a “last chance” to people and that her staff was asking groups that helped enroll people to spread the word about the new deadline. Approximately 93,800 of the people affected are in Florida and another 52,700 are in Texas.

A leading supporter of the health law who spent much of the fall and winter working to sign people up said Tuesday that he thought the government was taking the right steps but seemed to be moving too fast.

“You want to make sure that those people are not cut off just because of some paper problems that exist within the federal government,” said Ron Pollack, head of the Families USA advocacy group. “I would err on the side of caution in terms of cutting anyone off. People who have not responded so far probably think they’ve done everything they needed to do.”

Leonardo Cuello, director of health reform for the National Health Law Program, which litigates on behalf of low-income people for access to health care, said the government’s approach was “reasonable” because of their efforts to reach people already and the additional steps they would take now.

“At the end of the day, we have to appreciate that they’re striking a balance,” he said.

Write to Louise Radnofsky at


4 thoughts on “Health Coverage to End Without Proof of Citizenship or Legal Residency

  1. I’m supposed to (by law anyway) sign up for Medicare during the period of Oct. 1, 2014 and-April 1, 2015 because I turn 65 in January. I have no clue as to where to start nor what to do. I’ve not had healthcare coverage since 2009 anyway.
    . . .

    1. There’s still 2 more blood moons before then, Cathleen. Oct. 8th & Apr. 4th.

      You may not need it. (not that ANYONE actually needs it)

      What a total farce.

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