The Obama administration told more than 300,000 Obamacare customers Tuesday that they need to update their immigration or citizenship status in the system or they’ll lose their health care coverage at the end of next month.
The customers in question gave incomplete or inconsistent answers to the federal health care exchange, officials said. If the problem isn’t cleared up through supporting documents by Sept. 5, customers will lose their coverage on Sept. 30.
Illegal immigrants are not entitled to benefits under Obamacare, although government officials could not say whether that includes any of the 310,000 who are getting the notices.
“We have every reason to believe the people who applied for coverage through the marketplace did so because they believe they are eligible,” said Aaron K. Albright, spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
So far, nobody has been terminated over an immigration or citizenship issue, he said.
Officials have closed about 450,000 cases of missing or inconsistent data and are working on 210,000 more, but “some still have not responded,” he said.
Nearly a third of this week’s notices — 93,800 — went to customers in Florida, while about 17 percent, or 52,700, were sent to Texans, according to a geographic breakdown provided by CMS.
The issue is unlikely to sit well with Republicans, who cried foul in June when The Associated Press reported that about one quarter of Obamacare exchange customers — roughly 2 million people — had some type of data discrepancy on their applications.
“The administration’s utter disregard for taxpayer dollars and refusal to be transparent with the American people is wholly unacceptable,” Rep. Joseph R. Pitts, Pennsylvania Republican, said through a spokeswoman Tuesday. “We’re now left to wonder what trouble next year’s enrollment process will bring.”
This week’s notices were sent in English and Spanish. Those who do not respond will receive a final notice next month before they lose coverage.
“Since this is an urgent matter, we are activating our networks on the ground to reach people directly in the communities where they live,” said Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of CMS. “Whether it is online, via our call center or with one of our local partners, consumers will have a number of ways to find the help they need to continue their coverage.”
Lawful U.S. nationals may obtain benefits, and information for all applicants is cross-checked with data at the Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security, according to HealthCare.gov.
The system will alert the government if consumer information doesn’t match what’s on file, but the law gives consumers time to clear up the inconsistency.
For example, customers who mistype their Social Security numbers will be asked to send in copies of their Social Security cards, officials said.
An applicant who needs to verify citizenship status must type in an “alien registration number” or “certificate of citizenship” number, which offers another opportunity for mistakes.