by Sam Fellman
The sweeping health care reform bill passed by Congress will benefit many immigrants, who now qualify for tax credits and more affordable insurance. However, because it bars undocumented immigrants from the new private insurance exchanges, critics say it runs counter to the goal of greater access to health care.
The city estimates that 140,000 Bronx residents are uninsured. Many of them are undocumented immigrants, whose access to health care will not be affected by the law.
“Undocumented immigrants are very unlikely to have insurance right now,” said Jenny Rejeske, a spokesperson for the New York Immigration Coalition.
By requiring proof of citizenship for insurance transactions, Rejeske says the new system will lead to inconveniences for many citizens and legal residents.
“It’s going to create administrative costs and make it harder for eligible citizens and legal immigrants,” Rejeske said.
By making health care more affordable for those above the poverty line, the bill does not radically change Medicaid access and thus may not make a big impact on the Bronx, according to Sally Dunford, the executive director of the West Bronx Housing and Neighborhood Resource Center.
“Close to three quarters of the people we see are already covered by Medicaid,” Dunford said. “I think this is much more of a middle class issue.”