20 advocacy, immigration rights and health care group rally behind bill removing “cruel and unnecessary barriers to healthcare.”
Indian American House member Pramila Jayapal joined by two other lawmakers, reintroduced a bicameral legislation Wednesday that would grant lawful immigrants eligibility to health care programs.
Nearly 20 advocacy, immigration rights and health care groups are teaming up to pressure Congress to pass the Health Equity and Access under Law (HEAL) for Immigrant Families Act.
Organizations backing the bill include the National Immigration Law Center, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum.
The legislation, first proposed in the House in 2015 and the Senate last year, “removes cruel and unnecessary barriers to health care for immigrants of all statuses,” according to Jayapal.
“We must finally guarantee health care to everyone as a human right — regardless of immigration status, income, employment, or anything else,” she said.
“As a proud immigrant who came to this country alone at the age of 16, I know that the HEAL Act is an urgent, necessary, and just first step to eliminating senseless barriers to health care, making our communities healthier, and ensuring all immigrants get the care they need — during a pandemic and always,” Jayapal said.
Co-sponsored by more than 80 members of Congress and endorsed by hundreds of organizations, the proposal is being introduced amidst a devastating public health crisis in which over two-thirds of the undocumented population are working on the frontlines of the pandemic, according to a press release issued by Jayapal.
The HEAL for Immigrant Families Act ensures critical access to Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) by lifting the current five-year period that lawfully present immigrants — including kids — are required to wait before being able to enroll in these health care programs.
The bill also provides access to public and affordable health coverage for DACA recipients.
Additionally, the legislation removes the current restrictions that prevent undocumented immigrants from purchasing care through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace while ensuring these individuals are able to obtain premium-tax credits and cost-sharing reductions.
“The need to eliminate barriers to health care and expand access has only been highlighted by a deadly public health crisis that has disproportionately impacted immigrants who are at a significantly higher risk of Covid-19 infection,” Jayapal said.
Immigrants also represent a substantial part of America’s essential workforce with at least 23 million immigrants — including more than one million Dreamers — making up one in five individuals in the essential workforce, the release said.
Additionally, over two-thirds of the undocumented population are working on the frontlines of the pandemic, leaving them more vulnerable to the harms of Covid-19, it said.
Immigrants are significantly more likely to be uninsured compared to citizens, placing them at a higher risk for adverse health and financial consequences. In 2018, one quarter of lawfully present immigrants and 45 percent of undocumented immigrants were uninsured, the release said.
While the immigrant population as a whole accounted for an estimated 14% of the population, immigrants made up 30 percent of the non-elderly uninsured population.
The HEAL for Immigrant Families Act would make everyone — regardless of immigration status — eligible to purchase qualified health insurance coverage, obtain premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions, and enroll in Basic Health Programs, the release said.
Pramila Jayapal seeks path to citizenship for essential immigrant workers (January 29, 2021)