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Health reform may expose immigrant status of millions

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People who have stayed in the United States after their visas have expired or entered the country illegally fear that simply getting health care will become more risky once the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act takes full effect.

PPACA is supposed to expand access to Medicaid and children’s health programs for citizens and permanent residents, but it does nothing for patients in the country on temporary visas or for people who are violating immigration rules. PPACA prohibits undocumented aliens from using new health insurance exchanges, or Web-based health insurance supermarkets, that are supposed to help individuals buy health coverage starting in 2014.

Health policy watchers at the Heritage Foundation and elsewhere who support that approach say the United States has to use its scarce financial resources on people who are in the country legally and not offer benefits that may openly encourage illegal immigrants to come and stay.

Opponents of the approach say that it’s cruel, and that rules that shut immigrant parents out of health insurance programs may also end up hurting efforts to cover the immigrants’ U.S. citizen children.

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