President Barack Obama's administration is contacting 310,000 Obamacare enrollees starting Tuesday to warn them that they must verify they are U.S. citizens or legal residents -- or their benefits will be cut off.
In letters being delivered in English and Spanish, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services instructs the enrollees to provide additional documentation regarding their citizenship or immigration status by Sept. 5. Without that documentation, their health insurance plans will be rescinded Sept. 30. The recipients of these letters are people who have not responded to five to seven previous attempts to obtain their documents, according to a press release from the agency.
"We want as many consumers as possible to remain enrolled in marketplace coverage, so we are giving these individuals a last chance to submit their documents before their coverage through the marketplace will end," Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in the press release. Discrepancies in an individual's application does not necessarily mean that person is ineligible for coverage, the press release notes.
The 310,000 people being contacted represent only a small fraction of the more than 8 million individuals who have enrolled in private coverage via the Affordable Care Act's health insurance exchanges. Nonetheless, this effort by the administration underscores the challenges left from Obamacare's troubled first open enrollment period, which began last October for benefits that took effect this year.
Since the sign-ups in that six-month period ended, the Department of Health and Human Services has been working to reconcile problems with more than 2 million enrollees, including questions about the income they reported to qualify for subsidies and about their immigration status or citizenship.
Undocumented immigrants are barred from receiving subsidies under the Affordable Care Act or even using their own money to purchase health insurance on the exchanges. Immigrants who are legal residents or have become naturalized citizens can do both.
Initially, there were questions related to the citizenship or legal residency of some 970,000 individuals who applied for Obamacare subsidies, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. To date, the issues with 450,000 applicants have been resolved and another 210,000 are in process, the agency reported. These issues are specific to applications made through the federally run exchanges in 36 states, not the exchanges operated by the states themselves.
The largest number of letters are going to Florida, where 93,800 people haven't replied to prior requests by mail, phone or email, according to the agency. The next two states on the list are Texas, with 52,700 people affected, and Georgia, with 20,900.
Even after the letters are sent, federal authorities will try to make contact with these enrollees three more times before their benefits are canceled, an HHS official said on condition of anonymity. To help people document their eligibility for benefits, the federal government also is enlisting the aid of community-based organizations that provided application assistance during the enrollment period, Tavenner said in the press release.
Where Are The Obamacare Warning Letters Going?
Read the letter sent to Obamacare enrollees who have not adequately documented their citizenship or immigration status.