Md. officials count undocumented immigrants as uninsured for health care, but none qualify for Obamacare

By Glynis Kazanjian

Area 51State officials have been talking a lot about the high number of uninsured Marylanders who will have access to Obamacare, but not all are eligible to sign up.

Of the state’s estimated 750,000 to 800,000 uninsured residents, only 480,500 — or roughly 60% —  are eligible to enroll for health insurance plans under President Obama’s signature health care law, according to the federal health care website

The remaining 40%, estimated at 270,000 to 300,000, are mostly undocumented immigrants living in the state who are uninsured but cannot qualify for the exchange.

“All Maryland residents are eligible to get [health insurance] coverage through Maryland Health Connection, with the exception of undocumented immigrants,” said Dori Henry, communications director for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The Governor’s Office of Health Care Reform, which is charged with implementing health care reform in the state, declined to confirm the federal website figure. But the governor’s office has consistently used the number 750,000 to 800,000 as the total uninsured population in Maryland.

Henry was unable to provide an estimate of the number of undocumented immigrants living in the state. Casa de Maryland, an immigrant advocacy group aimed at improving the lives of low-income immigrants in the state, did not respond to requests for comment.

Advocates focusing on eligible residents first

Health care advocates say enrolling eligible Marylanders in health plans is their first priority.

“Our goal is to make sure the 500,000 [eligible residents] get enrolled,” said Health Care For All President Vincent DeMarco said. “Once it’s done, we’re going to work hard to make sure the other people who are not part of that expansion get health care also. We’re not going to close our doors then.”

Currently, 13.7% of Maryland residents do not have health insurance. State officials have set a goal of enrolling 150,000 people in the exchange by March 1, with an overall goal of cutting by nearly half the number of eligible uninsured to 6.3% by 2020.

But state officials may have their hands full just signing up the 60% of uninsured who are eligible. Since the Maryland Health Connection opened its doors Oct. 1, the state has enrolled 2,300 households in health insurance plans, far below original expectations. Computer software problems that the state is still trying to work out have plagued the enrollment process from day one.

Health care costs incurred from uninsured hospital patients, known as uncompensated hospital costs, totaled $971 million in 2011, the latest figure available, according to a report by the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission. The costs are absorbed into the entire healthcare system through increased insurance, Medicaid and Medicare rates.

“If an undocumented person gets really sick and goes to the emergency room, they’re going to be taken care of,” DeMarco said. “There will continue to be uncompensated care for the undocumented population. That’s still going to be a problem.”

About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.


  1. abby_adams

    DeMarco seems to forget that those illegals showing up for ER care without any insurance will be asked to pay somethng. It is their choice whether to make a good faith effort to pay whatever they can to clear up the bill. Or they can just stick the rest of us with the tab. Vinny, the paid cause dujour advocate, seems to ignore personal responsibiity for the illegals but loves to stick it to Maryland taxpayers whenever he can. All for a good cause, as usual.

  2. joe

    Illegal immigrants have broken into our house, the USA/Maryland. Now these illegals
    demand to sit at our table, eat our lunch and want dessert (amnesty)!

  3. rlgaston

    Is anyone surprised?

    • Dale McNamee


  4. Taxed Dead

    It is only a matter of time before illegal immigrants are also insured on our dollar, after all this is Maryland we are talkign about…

  5. tired of xenophobic jerks

    Wow Rogure, your knowledge and understanding of U.S. law is truly dizzying. Did you get your law degree from the inside of a Cracker Jack box? Undocumented means that they do not have legal status. A driver’s license does not convey legal status. The only thing that a driver’s license does is give you the right to drive a car, and can be used as proof of identity, if accepted by those asking for the proof. Since immigration status is issued by the federal government, and driver’s licenses are issued by the State, the State cannot convey immigration status to an individual by the sole act of issuing a driver’s license.
    So no, as of Jan. 1, undocumented immigrants in Maryland will continue to be so until the federal government gets off their ass and provides for real immigration reform.

    • Giancarlo Ramirez

      thank god everyone on this message board isn’t an asshole.

  6. Rogure

    After January 1, 2014, the number of undocumented immigrants in Maryland will start to decrease rapidly since they’ll be able to get drivers licenses. At that point, they’ll be documented — and at that point, you can use the correct legal terminology for them, which is “illegal alien”, or “taxpayer subsidized illegal alien”.

    • robert gould

      Or potential Democrat voter.

    • Nobama

      Most will drive with no insurance with out of state tags on their cars. Doing it already

    • ReadingforComprehension

      I prefer unarrested criminal. if illegal alien is not PC.

    • abby_adams

      Or O’Malley’s favorite reference for them…New Americans!

    • Daniel Postellon

      I call them fellow human beings.