Press Releases

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Health care for immigrant women and families benefits us all

Press Release
Washington
Loretta Kane (917.410.7242, lk@caminopr.org)

Proactive bill ensures many immigrants can access the health care their tax dollars support

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Women’s health advocates, health care providers, and immigrants’ rights leaders applaudCongresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-01) for introducing the “Health Equity and Access under the Law (HEAL) for Immigrant Women and Families Act of 2015.” This groundbreaking legislation restores access to affordable health coverage and care for immigrants authorized to live and work in the United States.

The growing list of supporters of the HEAL for Immigrant Women and Families Act of 2015 includes 120 national, state, and local organizations and associations.  

“The HEAL for Immigrant Women and Families Act of 2015 will guarantee that lawfully present immigrants who work hard and contribute to our economy will be treated fairly by the health care system they support when they pay taxes,” Rep. Lujan Grisham said. “I want to remove barriers that prevent access to health care programs like Medicaid and CHIP.”

Almost two decades ago, politicians began enacting harmful legal and policy restrictions that have put affordable health coverage out of reach for many immigrants. The HEAL for Immigrant Women and Families Act of 2015 removes political interference so immigrants are able to participate in the health care programs their tax dollars support. The bill:

●      Restores full-scope Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to all lawfully present immigrants who are otherwise eligible. The bill removes the discriminatory legal barriers to health coverage for lawfully present immigrants imposed by the 1996 welfare law. It eliminates the restrictive and outdated list of “qualified” immigrants for Medicaid and CHIP eligibility, and eliminates the five-year waiting period.

●      Removes the unjustifiable exclusion of a subset of individuals granted deferred action from the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicaid, and CHIP. The bill would allow all deferred action recipients – including those with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and those who will benefit from expanded DACA and the new Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) – to obtain Medicaid or CHIP coverage if otherwise eligible and to purchase qualified health plans in the Marketplace, obtain premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions, and enroll in the Basic Health Program.

●      Reinstates Medicaid eligibility for COFA migrants, or citizens of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau, under the Compacts of Free Association (COFA), who were inadvertently barred from the Medicaid program by the 1996 welfare law.

The legal and policy barriers to affordable health coverage imposed on immigrants disproportionately harm women by erecting persistent barriers to affordable health care and by contributing to needlessly high rates of health care uninsurance. The numbers speak for themselves. Among women of reproductive age, 40 percent of the 6.6 million noncitizen immigrants are uninsured, compared with 18 percent of naturalized citizen immigrants and 15 percent of U.S.-born women. It is even worse for reproductive-age women living in poverty, with over half of noncitizen immigrant women lacking health insurance — nearly twice the proportion of U.S.-born women. The HEAL for Immigrant Women and Families Act of 2015 would go a long way toward addressing these and other persistent inequities.

“Immigrant women make tremendous contributions to our communities, economy, and nation as a whole. Yet current federal immigration and health care policies fail to acknowledge the contributions and address the health care needs of immigrant women and families. The result is that millions of immigrant women suffer from preventable diseases, have no health care provider, and are hindered in their ability to fully contribute to their families and communities. It’s only fair and common-sense to remove political interference so immigrant women and families can participate in the health care programs their tax dollars support,” said Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH). “Good health care ensures women have the opportunity to realize their full potential, care for their families, and make their own decisions about their future. That’s good for all of us.”

"Immigrant women are the backbones of their families and communities and yet they are disproportionately harmed by the current barriers to affordable health coverage. Asian American and Pacific Islanders already suffer from high rates of uninsurance and preventable disease. Our families should not be forced by politicians to wait years for the health care we need. This legislation is an opportunity for us to lift those barriers to coverage and ensure that immigrant women and their families are able to thrive. We applaud Congresswoman Lujan Grisham for her leadership," said Miriam Yeung, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum.

“We applaud Congresswoman Lujan Grisham for her leadership in reintroducing this critical bill. Barriers to health care take a toll on the health of immigrant women and widen existing health disparities. Health coverage is crucial for a range of sexual and reproductive health care, including prenatal visits, contraceptives, sexually transmitted infection screenings, breast-feeding support, and routine gynecological care. As physicians who take care of immigrant women and families every day, we look forward to working with Congress and our organizational partners to see that it is enacted,” said Physicians for Reproductive Health Board Chair Dr. Nancy L. Stanwood, MD, MPH.          

“The health of our families is so often overlooked in the immigration discussion, when it should be a major focus,” said Kathy Ko Chin, APIAHF president and CEO. “The HEAL for Immigrant Women and Families Act does just that, by allowing immigrant women and their families to access the care they need and that their tax dollars support. Our country will be stronger and more successful when all residents have access to health care.”

“We are proud that our own Congresswoman Lujan Grisham understands that improving access to health care for our immigrant communities benefits us all,” said Tannia Esparza, executive director at Young Women United (YWU). “As a border state with diverse immigrant diaspora, we know eliminating barriers to care will have a real impact on the lives of immigrant women and families throughout New Mexico and across the country.”

“Planned Parenthood’s mission is making sure all women — regardless of income, insurance coverage, or immigration status — receive the health care they need to lead healthy and productive lives,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “We thank Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham for leading this effort and urge Congress to pass this legislation which will ensure immigrant women and their families have equitable access to reproductive health care, such as birth control and cancer screenings – without barriers getting in the way. It’s good policy – and it’s the right thing to do.”

“It is time that federal policymakers do right by our country and our communities by extending access to affordable, quality health care to everyone living and working in the U.S., regardless of their socioeconomic or immigration status. The Health Equity and Access Under the Law (HEAL) for Immigrant Women and Families Act of 2015 would bring our country one step closer to achieving equity in access to health care. We look forward to its consideration in Congress,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center (NILC).

"Limiting access to healthcare has a profoundly negative impact, especially for young people.  Removing unnecessary barriers that delay accessing health care or make it unaffordable is critical in advancing the health and well-being of young people, women and communities. Young people especially deserve access to the full range of health care services, not policies that deny access to basic services they need to lead healthy lives,” said Debra Hauser, president of Advocates for Youth.

“Everyone deserves access to health care, no matter your immigration status,” said Elizabeth G. Taylor, executive director of the National Health Law Program (NHeLP). “This is good legislation that removes barriers that currently prevent immigrant women and families from accessing the health care they need.”

“Continuing to deny immigrant women and men access to affordable, high-quality health care, including family planning services, contributes to adverse sexual health outcomes, such as unintended pregnancy and STDs, and puts undue strain on the nation's health and economy," said Clare Coleman, president & CEO of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA). "Given the significant unmet family planning and sexual health care needs among immigrant women, the HEAL for Immigrant Women and Families Act is a critical step toward improving access to care for immigrant families, which in turn will help alleviate health disparities in communities across the country." 

“The National Council of Jewish Women firmly believes it is a moral imperative to ensure everyone can access the health care they need, without jeopardizing their economic security or other basic needs. For too long, discriminatory bans have unjustly denied individuals and families access to health programs which their tax dollars support, simply based on their immigration status. These policies have fallen hardest on immigrant women, pushing critical, life-saving preventive care and other reproductive health services out of reach — hurting her health and economic security, and that of her family. The HEAL for Immigrant Women and Families Act takes important steps to lift these harmful barriers to health care, moving us closer to fulfilling our nation’s promise of ‘justice for all,’” said Nancy K. Kaufman, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women.

“Health care is a human right for every woman, no matter her immigration status,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights.  “We commend Congresswoman Lujan Grisham for once again taking bold steps and introducing this critical legislation to ensure women, their families, and their communities are healthy and free of discrimination.”

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The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health is the only national reproductive justice organization dedicated to building Latina power to advance health, dignity, and justice for 26 million Latinas, their families, and communities in the United States through leadership development, community mobilization, policy advocacy, and strategic communications.