Covering undocumented immigrant on group health

My husband is from Guatemala and has been living in the United States with me.  His work visa expired last year.  He has always had good health, but recently has had long bouts of coughing.  I’d like to put him onto my health insurance from work.  Then, he could see a doctor about his cough.  Will I be able to put him on my plan or will they ask for his papers?  I don’t want to bring attention to him and his immigration status.

Making No False Moves

Dear Making No False Moves,

Generally, group health plans do not require proof of citizenship or immigration status to enroll in the plan.  They may not allow you to add him, when there has been no “family status change”.   A family status change is something like getting married, having a child, etc.  Without one of those events, you may have to wait until your plan has its annual enrollment season.

Even with health insurance, he may get asked for identification when he gets care at a hospital, for example. Thus, he could end up getting care and at the same time, putting himself in danger of being deported.

If he needs a lot of care, his immigration status is more likely to be noticed.  In January 2012, an undocumented immigrant who had private health insurance was taken off of a kidney transplant list.  He was removed from the list because of his immigration status.  (Though your husband had a work visa, he will be considered “undocumented” because it has expired.)

Your best bet, for the short term, is to look for charity clinics and programs for undocumented immigrants.  He would get care free of charge or for a low cost at one of these clinics.

After he gets care, your next move should be to consult an immigration attorney.

Linda Riddell

About Linda Riddell

A published author and health policy analyst with 25 years’ experience, Linda Riddell's goal is to alleviate the widespread ailment of not knowing what your health plan can do for you.