Immigrants Kicked Off Obamacare Now Suing Over Discrimination

Sarah Hurtubise | Reporter

Two immigration groups have filed legal complaints against the Obama administration for kicking over one hundred thousand Obamacare customers off their insurance plans without sending notices in their native language, Modern Healthcare reports.

The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) and Philadelphia’s Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Associations Coalition (SEAMACC) have both filed complaints with Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights. The groups believe the Obama administration’s move to end the health plans of customers who failed to prove their legal immigration or citizenship status violate customers’ rights as immigrants.

The Obama administration terminated 115,000 customers’ Obamacare exchange health insurance on September 30, after customers failed to submit required documentation to prove their legal status in the U.S. (RELATED: Vitter: Obama Admin ‘Bending Over Backwards To Give Obamacare To Illegal Immigrants’)

The administration said it first reached out to each customer between eight and ten times through mail, phone and e-mail in an attempt to get them to update their documents on HealthCare.gov before finally kicking them off their plans.

That wasn’t enough for some immigrants, according to the complaints, because the many notices and messages were only left in English and Spanish. The notices directed customers to contact HealthCare.gov, but the groups believe that despite being contacted by the federal government up to ten times, some people didn’t understand the severity of the situation.

“CMS is not taking responsibility for completely failing on the language-access provision,” said Thoai Nguyen, SEAMAAC CEO.

The Obama administration immediately created a special enrollment period for the customers affected, which allows them to sign up for new coverage at HealthCare.gov again at any time, as opposed to waiting for the open enrollment period to begin again on November 15. That’s not good enough either, according to some advocates.

“We’re worried that the people we’re working on behalf of don’t realize that this is available to them,” Alvaro Huerto, an attorney at the National Immigration Law Center, told Modern Healthcare.

Several consumer advocate groups have reported for weeks that despite their attempts to update their information on HealthCare.gov as directed, the website still wasn’t working properly enough for it to go through.

Some couldn’t access their accounts, others had to send in documentation multiple times and even though it appeared to go through on the website, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said they had no record of it. (RELATED: Report: HealthCare.gov Still Doesn’t Work)

In the complaints, the groups worry that customers who were finally kicked off their plans will temporarily lose access to taxpayer subsidies for their coverage.

“Many of ICIRR’s clients are low-income clients and are elderly or disabled,” the complaint reads. “If these individuals lose their subsidies, they will not be able to afford the health insurance they need. To make matters worse, many clients submitted the requested immigration or citizenship documents, but for some reason these documents were not processed.”

Either way, open enrollment begins in full-force in just over one month.

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