Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks Proposed Health Insurance Requirement

Erick Widman

Last month, President Trump announced that, beginning November 3, 2019, all intending immigrants applying for visas at US consulates and embassies abroad will be required to obtain health insurance within 30 days of entering the US. The intention of the new proposed policy is to suspend entry of any immigrant who will “financially burden the healthcare system.” According to the President’s proclamation, any immigrant who is unable to prove that they will be enrolled in a healthcare plan or that they have the resources to cover any foreseeable medical expenses will be denied their visa.

Just a few days before the new policy was set to take effect, AILA, the Justice Action Center, Portland, Oregon-based Innovation Law Lab, and Sidley Austin LLP requested a temporary restraining order to halt implementation of the administration’s new health insurance requirement. The lawsuit was successful, and a Portland, Oregon-based federal judge temporarily suspended the new policy from taking effect as of Saturday, November 2nd.

As Oregon-based Innovation Law Lab, one of the groups involved in the lawsuit, explains, “We cannot overstate how disastrous this health care ban will be for thousands of innocent families who have otherwise satisfied the legal requirements for an immigrant visa. Like many other immigration policy changes in the Trump era, this policy is designed to exclude immigrants of color. It [would] impact two-thirds of visa applicants and mostly impact those from Latin America, Africa, and Asia.”

Based on these recent developments, the State Department’s proposed health insurance policy will not take effect until the court decides to either allow the policy to be implemented or to issue a permanent injunction. Those involved in the lawsuit are still seeking additional plaintiffs in the case, particularly those who have consular interviews scheduled in December 2019 and January 2020. If implemented, the health insurance policy will affect all immigrant visa and diversity visa applicants applying for immigrant benefits abroad.

According to USCIS, if the new policy takes effect, the following will be classified as approved health insurance plans and all applicants must provide evidence of their plan for enrollment:

  • Employer-sponsored health plans, including retiree plans
  • Unsubsidized health plans offered in the individual market within a State
  • Short-term, limited duration health plans effective for a minimum of 364 days or until the beginning of planned, extended travel outside the United States
  • Catastrophic plans
  • Coverage by a family member’s health plan
  • U.S. military health plans, including TRICARE
  • Visitor health insurance plans with adequate medical coverage for a minimum of 364 days or until the beginning of planned, extended travel outside the United States
  • Medical plans under the Medicare program
  • Any other health plan with adequate coverage as determined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services
  • For individuals over the age of 18, approved health insurance does not include coverage under the Medicaid program.

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