Senators Clinton and Snowe Introduce Legislation to Expand Access to Healthcare for Legal Immigrant Children
Bipartisan Bill Provides Fiscal Relief to States Already Offering These Critical Services
Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) today are introducing legislation restoring access to health care for legal immigrant children and pregnant women. Current law includes a five year waiting period for new legal immigrants before the federal government will reimburse states for providing Medicaid and State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) services. The Legal Immigrant Children's Health Improvement Act of 2007 eliminates this waiting period and will provide states with the option of extending critical health services to new legal immigrant children and pregnant women, allowing states to receive federal reimbursement for these costs through Medicaid and S-CHIP. A companion bill was introduced today in the House of Representatives by Representatives Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and Henry Waxman (D-CA).
"We should do everything we can to expand access to affordable healthcare and ensure that legal immigrant children and pregnant women are getting the proper healthcare they need," said Senator Clinton. "The Legal Immigrant Children's Health Improvement Act will help promote preventive care and reduce unnecessary hospitalizations, the correct and the fiscally smart thing to do."
"The indisputable success of the State Children's Health Insurance Program's should be capitalized on and expanded to meet the needs of those most at risk," Senator Snowe said. "For far too long legal immigrant children and pregnant women have been denied access to the coverage and the healthcare they need. The Legal Immigrant Children's Health Improvement Act will remove the current impractical and callous waiting period and enable states to provide adequate care to new legal immigrant children and expecting mothers."
New York and Maine are among 16 states that use state funds to provide healthcare services to legal immigrant pregnant women and children within the five year waiting period. Another six states provide some coverage during this time. The Legal Immigrant Children's Health Improvement Act provides these states with fiscal relief by eliminating the five year waiting period, which was instituted in Medicaid as part of the 1996 welfare reform law and S-CHIP in 1997.
According to Columbia University's National Center for Children in Poverty, nearly half of all children living with low-income parents who recently immigrated to the US are not covered by any type of health insurance. This is substantially higher than the percentage of uninsured among children living with low-income, native-born parents. According to an Urban Institute study, children under six years of age, whose parents are recent immigrants, are two times as likely to be in fair or poor health compared to same-age children of native-born parents. Children ages six to seventeen years old whose parents recently immigrated to the US are almost three times as likely to be in fair or poor health.
The Immigrant Children's Health Improvement Act has been endorsed by a wide range of organizations including Asian American Justice Center, Catholic Health Association, Families USA, National Council of La Raza, National Health Law Project and National Immigration Law Center.