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Second Opinion: How Do Undocumented Parents Cover Their Citizen Kids?

Second Opinion: How Do Undocumented Parents Cover Their Citizen Kids

Charter school teacher Oscar Ramos wants to know what to tell parents who are in the country illegally about enrolling their citizen children in new Obamacare plans.

Second Opinion is a weekly Q-and-A series that answers questions from San Diegans on the Affordable Care Act. Ask yours here.

The Question: How do parents who are in the country illegally go about getting their citizen children insured?

Oscar Ramos is a teacher at The Preuss School, a charter school for grades 6 through 12 on UC San Diego's campus. Ramos's classroom walls are decorated with photos of previous students who have gone off to college — a feat that's especially meaningful to Ramos because his students, like him, come from low-income and mixed-status households.

Aired 8/26/13 on KPBS News.

A charter school teacher wants to know what to tell undocumented parents about enrolling their citizen children in health plans.

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"We find out that the parent has been deported and the student is living with friends or relatives," Ramos said. "You start to notice problems with the student's education in class and behavior or homework completion, that kind of thing."

Ramos, whose own parents immigrated to the United States illegally before he was born and were later granted amnesty, said he gets two or three students dealing with issues stemming from their own illegal status or their parents' each year.

He wants to make sure health care is no longer one of those issues. Ramos said he plans to counsel his students' parents on what new coverage options are available under the Affordable Care Act. Here's his question:

"How will the Affordable Care Act affect the insurance coverage availability for U.S. citizen children with undocumented immigrant parents."

The Takeaway: Parents don't need to have legal status to sign their children up for Obamacare benefits.

First, here's a refresher on immigration and the Affordable Care Act:

  • Undocumented adults and children are not eligible for ACA benefits.
  • Immigrants in the country legally, including those with deferred action, can participate in the Medi-Cal expansion and new health insurance exchange. California found a workaround for the requirement that immigrants have legal status for more than five years.

Even though the law is clear that citizen, or otherwise legal, children are covered, it's murkier on how undocumented parents who lack Social Security numbers and other documentation sign their children up.

But health officials have worked out the details. And the first one they always communicate:

Sharing personal information to enroll children in a health plan will not result in deportation. The information will not be shared with immigration officials.

So what information is required? To sign a child up for Medi-Cal, parents would use his or her Social Security number. Parents must also prove their household income, but that doesn't mean they need to have filed taxes last year. Proof of income can be as informal as a written note from an employer, according to the California Department of Health Care Services. Parents also need some form of identification for themselves. DHCS says something like a work badge would suffice.

Parents who earn too much money for their children to qualify for Medi-Cal ($32,500 for a family of four) can turn to the state-run insurance exchange, Covered California. A bit more documentation is needed there.

Covered California requires parents to have – or get – an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or ITIN. It's like a Social Security number for people who can't get one because of their citizenship status. A spokesman for the exchange said parents don't have to have filed taxes in the past, but must promise to for the year the child is covered. That's because the subsidies that bring down the monthly premium cost — yes, undocumented parents qualify for financial help — are based on prospective income and any discrepancies must be reconciled at tax time the following year.

There's one other thing immigrant parents should know. If their children are eligible for health care, they're supposed to cover them.

In other words, the fine for not getting coverage can be levied for citizen children — no matter the parent's citizenship status.

But the government will only know whether to issue a fine if the parent files taxes. And there are hardship exemptions that many immigrant parents could qualify for.

The Orders: Be ready to make referrals.

Ramos can tell his students' parents to go through the traditional channels to enroll their children in Medi-Cal – the county or neighborhood social service providers.

For Covered California, parents can call (888) 975-1142 or seek out locals who have been trained to help with enrollment. Family Health Centers of San Diego, Social Advocates for Youth and 2-1-1 San Diego are some of the organizations certified by the exchange.

Check out last week's Second Opinion: What's a grandfathered health plan?

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Avatar for user 'muckapoo1'

muckapoo1 | August 26, 2013 at 10:08 a.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

Here we go again. I know citizens with 5 heart stints and a pacemaker who were recently denied Medi-Cal. Yet, we are able to find a way for the irresponsible parents(Irresponsible by placing their children in a situation where they must leave them behind) to obtain Medi-Cal for their kids.

What should be even more offensive to law-abiding citizens, is the number of instances in this article where "officials" turn their backs on upholding the law. No other situation is more excused by people with authority. From the President on down, this group is treated better than the people who do things the right way. Legals in need would be better served learning spanish and applying for benefits as an illegal. This is so wrong.

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Avatar for user 'progressivebuthey'

progressivebuthey | August 26, 2013 at 10:40 a.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

the more you make it easier for the undocumented from any country, but particularly mexico which seems to be the case, the more they want to come here illegally. we must seem very stupid to them. once latinos become the majority with comprehensive immigration reform, more illegal entry and their booming population growth, all laws built and fought for over the years will be skewed in favor of the latino culture, which sees family above laws meant to serve the majority and to avoid chaos. . we non-latinos are cutting our own throats for present and future generations. period.

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Avatar for user 'Mmikey'

Mmikey | August 26, 2013 at 10:55 a.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

Its sad our lawmakers do as they please, not as we wish.

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Avatar for user 'muckapoo1'

muckapoo1 | August 26, 2013 at 11:02 a.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

Progressive, can you imagine how this group will bring even more demands as they increase in number? They run amok without regards for our laws now. They demand acceptance. They demand education. They demand health care. Demands without payment. Demands as felons. We "are" stupid to allow this to happen. This, while legal citizens (black, Hispanic and white) forage for benefits in their own country.

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Avatar for user 'equinozio9'

equinozio9 | August 27, 2013 at 1:11 a.m. ― 3 years, 6 months ago

It is still bewildering to me how poorly some American understand the history and civil basis their country is funded on...How can anyone forget that this country is build on the toil and work of immigrant, that every single citizen carries the heritage of people that were once from somewhere else and did choose to dedicate their life, work and families to a place that was very often unwelcoming and harsh. Immigrants, whether "legal" pr not, earn their place is US and constitute the lifeblood of the nation. And it is hardly accurate to describe them as "demanding"!

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Avatar for user 'muckapoo1'

muckapoo1 | August 27, 2013 at 9:40 a.m. ― 3 years, 6 months ago

Sure equino, the US is based on immigrants. The legal ones before the "felons from the south" stood in line at Ellis Island and did it right. These lawless folks are just coming for the buffet of benefits our treasonous politicians provide against the wishes or the people. As far as demanding, I see these felons carrying the Mexican flag in demonstrations around the country. They don't appear to be in the shadows at all. I wish I had time to demonstrate, but I have to show up for work in order to pay for all of this insanity and provide for my family at the same time. Keep spouting the "Illegal talking points", someone may actually believe them.

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