STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS -- (Senate - May 23, 2005)
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By Mrs. CLINTON (for herself, Mr. Chafee, Mr. Nelson of Florida, Ms. Collins, Mr. Bingaman, and Ms. Cantwell):
S. 1104. A bill to amend titles XIX and XXI of the Social Security Act to provide States with the option to cover certain legal immigrants under the medicaid and State children's health insurance programs; to the Committee on Finance.
Mrs. CLINTON. Mr. President, I rise to introduce legislation that would allow States to use Federal funds to provide critical healthcare services to pregnant women and children. I want to thank Senator CHAFEE for his leadership on this important issue. I also want to recognize former Senator Bob Graham and the late Senator John Chafee, who championed this legislation for many years. Their commitment laid the groundwork for our bill introduction today.
This bill, the Immigrant Children's Health Improvement Act, is fundamentally about three things--fairness, fiscal relief, and financial savings.
I will start with fairness. All across New York and America, legal immigrants work hard, pay taxes, and exercise their civic responsibilities. I see examples of this every day in New York. They fight for our country in the military. They contribute to our Nation's competitiveness and economic growth. They help revitalize neighborhoods and small towns across the country. And most are fiercely proud to call themselves Americans.
Yet, in 1996, Congress denied safety net services to legal immigrants who had been in the country for less than 5 years. Today, Senator CHAFEE and I are here to introduce legislation that would take a first step towards correcting that injustice. The Immigrant Children's Health Improvement Act will allow States to use, Federal funds to make SCHIP, (the State Children's Health Improvement Program, and Medicaid available to pregnant women and children who are legal immigrants within the 5-year ban.
There is tremendous need for this legislation. An Urban Institute study found that children of immigrants are three times as likely to be in fair or poor health. While most children receive preventative medicine, such as vaccines, too often immigrant children do not. They are forced to receive their healthcare via emergency rooms--the least cost-effective place to provide care. To make matters worse, minor illnesses, which would be easily treated by a pediatrician, may snowball into life-threatening conditions.
This legislation is also a matter of good fiscal policy. Today, 19 States, including New York and Rhode Island, plus the District of Columbia, use State funds to provide healthcare services to legal immigrants within the 5-year waiting period. According to the most recent estimates from the Congressional Budget Office, at least 155,000 children and 60,000 adults are receiving these benefits. A total of 387,000 recent legal immigrants would be eligible to receive these services if their States opt to take advantage of the program.
And finally, this bill is about long-term healthcare cost savings. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, covering uninsured children and pregnant women through Medicaid can reduce unnecessary hospitalization by 22 percent. Pregnant women who forgo prenatal care are likely to develop complications during pregnancy, which results in higher costs for postpartum care. And women without access to prenatal care are four times more likely to deliver low birth weight infants and seven times more likely to deliver prematurely than women who receive prenatal care, according to the Institute of Medicine. All of these health outcomes are costly to society and to the individuals involved.
Thank you for allotting me this time to speak on such an urgent matter. I look forward to working with you and the rest of my colleagues to enact this bill into law in the near future.