Posted by Laura Kellams on November 20th 2013
Arkansas is home to one of the largest populations of Marshallese individuals in the world. Springdale, and increasingly, other areas of the state including Pine Bluff, have become home to thousands of people who were born in the Republic of the Marshall Islands but moved here for employment and to have a better life. They are free to travel, work, attend school and live in the United States under a Compact of Free Association that gives them special status under federal immigration policy.
That unique status creates confusion when people born in the Marshall Islands seek health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act. We have gotten a lot of questions about Marshallese individuals' eligibility for Medicaid, ARKids First, Medicare, and Marketplace-based insurance options. So we put together a fact sheet to answer some of those common questions and concerns.
Generally, Marshallese individuals can buy insurance in the Marketplace, with tax subsidies available depending on their family income. But because they're technically "not qualified" migrants, they're for the most part not able to obtain Medicaid-funded insurance such as ARKids First or Arkansas's "Private Option" health insurance option.
All these eligibility concerns are questions of state and federal law and policy. So if you'd like to see them changed, join us in our efforts. Marshallese migrants were wrongly cut out of Medicaid eligibility through a change in federal law in 1996. In addition, we have long sought a change to state policy that would allow children born in the Marshall Islands to get health coverage under ARKids First. The federal government encourages this change and would provide most of the funding for the coverage, but Arkansas has to take that option. Half the states have done so, and we should, too.
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