Migrant Health Insurance Expansions Gain Ground in U.S. States



Noncitizens in the US constitute 32% of the population without health insurance. Some states like Colorado have launched state-based subsidized health insurance programs for immigrants, which aim to reduce the number of uninsured individuals and minimize taxpayers’ burden for uncompensated care. Other states like Washington and California have also taken steps to expand health coverage for noncitizens, recognizing the financial burdens lack of health coverage can create for these individuals and their communities.

Immigrant Health Insurance: How States Address the Challenge

Although non-citizens comprise only 8% of the U.S. population, they make up approximately 32% of the uninsured population. The financial burden of uninsured migrants affects their communities, prompting several states to find solutions.

Colorado’s OmniSalud: A Solution to Health Insurance Barriers

Colorado has launched OmniSalud, a state-subsidized health insurance program for unauthorized immigrants. The program offers beneficiaries low-cost or free health insurance premiums through state subsidies to insurance providers. OmniSalud covers services such as annual check-ups, immunizations, maternity care, diabetic supplies, and mental health care. The program received high enrollment, but only 10,000 enrollees were accepted for 2023 due to budget constraints.

Benefits of Subsidized Health Insurance for Noncitizens

By offering subsidized health insurance, Colorado aims to decrease the number of uninsured individuals and lessen the taxpayers’ cost for uncompensated care. Uncompensated care was estimated to cost state and local governments $11.9 billion nationwide in 2017. Insurance subsidies also help stabilize the state’s insurance market and keep hospitals financially sustainable.

OmniSalud Sightings Early Success and Future Benefits

The Division of Insurance plans to use enrollment and claims data to determine the effectiveness of OmniSalud and its future improvements. Having access to health insurance provides financial stability to unauthorized immigrants and encourages them to seek low-cost preventative care rather than costly emergency treatments, reducing the risk of medical debt.

Washington State Expands Health Coverage for Noncitizens

Washington state has also taken steps to expand health coverage for noncitizens, allowing all residents to purchase health coverage through the state’s online health exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder. Additionally, the state plans to launch a “Medicaid-like” program to offer free health coverage to noncitizens earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level by July next year.

Other States Following Suit

Other states, such as California and Illinois, have also made efforts to insure noncitizens. In 2021, California expanded health coverage for unauthorized immigrants, leading to around 286,000 adult migrants being insured by the state’s health coverage program, Medi-Cal. Meanwhile, Illinois has temporarily suspended enrollment to its state-based health insurance program due to budget negotiations.

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