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Citizenship Issues and the Affordable Health Care Act

A colleague of mine who adopted a foreign born child who is a US citizen reports problems signing up for health care under the Washington Health Care Exchange. The problem is that the system does not seem to recognize the Social Security Numbers of individuals with Certificates of Citizenship or Certificates of Naturalization. She has reported this to the powers that be at the Exchange. But it is representative of a larger issue we immigration lawyers frequently see.

We don’t just represent foreign born immigrants. We also represent US citizens in a world of ever increasing need to document citizenship status, whether in those states now requiring proof of citizenship status in order to vote, to sign up for Medicare or Medicaid, to get US passports or enhanced drivers licenses in order to come back into the USA, to get security clearances, and for a myriad of benefits and services requiring proof of citizenship status. The makers of these verification rules and technology don’t have a good grasp on the different ways people can become US citizens: 1) by being born in the USA; 2) by being born abroad to one or more US citizens or acquiring citizenship through the generations; 3) through naturalization; 4) through adoption; 5) through military service, and more. Consequently, unless you were born in the US and received a Social Security Number at birth, it is recommended that when you obtain a new status or even a name change, that you update Social Security with your new status. Social Security in turns shares that data with a myriad of systems at other agencies such as E-Verify, used by employers to verify work authorization in the US, and now the federal and state Healthcare exchanges, among others. You can do a quick self-test here at E-Verify (it checks both immigration and citizenship status and Social Security numbers.) If you get a bounce, check the way you entered your name. If it is not the same as on your Social Security number, I suggest making an appointment with Social Security to get your records updated.

Although a whole other topic about which immigrants can or cannot receive Obamacare, see the National Immigration Law Center.