Almost 20 advocacy groups team up to pressure Congress to pass health care bill for immigrants

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Nearly 20 advocacy, immigration rights and health care groups are teaming up to pressure Congress to pass a health care bill reintroduced Wednesday that would extend access to immigrants.

The organizations, including the National Immigration Law Center, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, rallied behind the HEAL for Immigrant Families Act that would grant lawful immigrants eligibility to health care programs. 

Reps Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) reintroduced the legislation on Wednesday after it was first proposed in the House in 2015 and the Senate last year. 

But this year, 19 groups are uniting to publicly back the legislation as Democrats have control of the presidency and in both chambers of Congress.

Under the bill, immigrants who qualify for Medicaid as well as the Children’s Health Insurance Program can receive coverage without a mandatory five-year waiting period. 

The legislation also would permit undocumented immigrants to purchase coverage under the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges, and it would allow Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients to get public health care coverage. 

The organizations cited a Kaiser Family Foundation report that found noncitizens in the U.S. are more likely to be uninsured, noting a lack of insurance poses an obstacle to getting needed care. 

In a release, the groups also called attention to COVID-19’s disproportionate effects on communities of color, including communities of immigrants. 

Marielena Hincapié, the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, said in a statement that her organization applauds the proposed legislation, “which moves us towards a world where a person’s country of birth no longer determines their ability to live a healthy life, and where all of us have the freedom to thrive.”

“Immigrants and their loved ones have faced disproportionate harm in the pandemic, in part because many are excluded from access to the health insurance their tax dollars pay for,” Hincapié said.

Planned Parenthood President and CEO Alexis McGill Johnson said her organization “proudly supports” the legislation “as part of our commitment to advocating for access to health care for everyone.”

“Being an immigrant remains a barrier to accessing essential care and making reproductive decisions for too many,” she said in a statement.

Updated at 9:25 a.m.

Tags Children's Health Insurance Program CHIP Cory Booker Health care health care coverage Health insurance immigrants Medicaid National Immigration Law Center Planned Parenthood Pramila Jayapal
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