People For the American Way

Health Should Not Depend on Immigration Status

People For in Action
Health Should Not Depend on Immigration Status

Access to quality, affordable health care is a fundamental human right. People For the American Way supports the Health Equity and Accountability Act, which takes on racial and ethnic health disparities using an intersectional approach that addresses the numerous factors that may impede a person’s access to care. PFAW has also joined allied organizations to endorse the Health Equity & Access under the Law for Immigrant Women & Families Act, which expands access to health care services for immigrants, including sexual, reproductive, and maternal health services. We need bold legislation like this amid ongoing anti-immigrant attacks coming from the Trump administration. You can download our HEAL Act letter here.

Dear Representatives,

We, the undersigned organizations, write to show our strong support for The Health Equity & Access under the Law (HEAL) for Immigrant Women & Families Act of 2019, in line with our pursuit of securing comprehensive and affordable access to health care for people of all immigration statuses so that immigrant families can live with health and dignity. The HEAL for Immigrant Women and Families Act of 2019 accomplishes this by removing legal and policy barriers to health insurance coverage and thus expanding access to health care services, including sexual, reproductive, and maternal health services, for immigrants.

Under the current law, many immigrants are unable to qualify for Medicaid until five years after receiving green card (LPR) status, and many are ineligible to purchase health insurance from the health insurance marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As a result, immigrants are forced to navigate a complicated patchwork of care that often leaves them paying out-of-pocket for basic health care, particularly if a community health center or employer-sponsored health insurance is not available to them. In light of this reality, many immigrant families must choose between paying for health care and purchasing necessities like food and shelter, further hindering their ability to raise healthy families and build strong communities.

These onerous barriers disproportionately harm immigrant women. According to the Guttmacher Institute, one-third of noncitizen immigrant women ages 15-44 are uninsured.1 For women in that group who are also low-income, that proportion jumps to almost half.2 Furthermore, nearly half of immigrant women are of reproductive age.3 Legal and policy barriers to affordable health insurance coverage therefore particularly exacerbate their risk of negative sexual, reproductive, and maternal health outcomes, with lasting health and economic sequences for immigrant women, their families, and society as a whole.

The HEAL for Immigrant Women and Families Act of 2019 ensures immigrant women and their families can access affordable coverage for which they are otherwise eligible and receive the health care they need. This in turn creates stronger communities by alleviating the burdensome costs of urgent care clinics and emergency rooms as primary care facilities. To accomplish this, the bill: 1) restores enrollment to full-benefit Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to all federally authorized immigrants who are otherwise eligible; 2) removes the unjustifiable exclusion of undocumented immigrants from accessing health insurance coverage on the ACA’s health insurance marketplaces; 3) ensures access to public and affordable health coverage for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals; and 4) reinstates Medicaid eligibility for COFA migrants.4

From threats to health care, nutrition, and affordable housing to separating families at the border and mass deportation, the Trump administration has been relentless in attempting to strip away agency and dignity from immigrant families. In light of these threats and constant attacks, we cannot afford to be lukewarm; we need bold and impactful legislation that expands access to the basic care that immigrant women and their families need and deserve. Health should not depend on immigration status. Every individual deserves to be healthy and to obtain affordable health care with dignity, regardless of how long they have been in the United States or the status they have been granted.

For these reasons, we strongly support the HEAL for Immigrant Women & Families Act of 2019, and we invite you to join us in this effort. To cosponsor, contact Stephanie Kang with Rep. Pramila Jayapal at stephanie.kang@mail.house.gov or Linda Antinone with Rep. Deb Haaland at linda.antinone@mail.house.gov.