Rep. Jayapal, others, introduce bill on health care for all immigrants regardless of status

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., tested positive for the coronavirus, she said late on Monday Jan. 12, 2021. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Salwan Georges.

Representatives Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, the only Indian-American woman in the U.S. Congress, along with Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán, D-California, joined Senator Cory Booker, D-N.J., to introduce the Health Equity and Access under Law (HEAL) for Immigrant Families Act, on May 12, 2021.

The bicameral legislation is an effort to remove some barriers to health care for immigrants of all statuses.

Co-sponsored by more than 80 members of Congress and endorsed by hundreds of organizations, the proposal is being introduced amidst a devastating public health crisis in which over two-thirds of the undocumented population are working on the frontlines of the pandemic, a press release from Rep. Jayapal’s office says.

The HEAL for Immigrant Families Act aims to ensure critical access to Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) by lifting the current five-year period that lawfully present immigrants — including kids — are required to wait before being able to enroll in these health care programs.

The bill also provides access to public and affordable health coverage for DACA recipients.

Additionally, the legislation removes the current restrictions that prevent undocumented immigrants from purchasing care through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace.

“We must finally guarantee health care to everyone as a human right — regardless of immigration status, income, employment, or anything else,” Congresswoman Jayapal is quoted saying in the press release. “As a proud immigrant who came to this country alone at the age of 16, I know that the HEAL Act is an urgent, necessary, and just first step to eliminating senseless barriers to health care, making our communities healthier, and ensuring all immigrants get the care they need — during a pandemic and always.”

The need to eliminate barriers to health care and expand access has only been highlighted by a deadly public health crisis that has disproportionately impacted immigrants who are at a significantly higher risk of COVID-19 infection, the press release said.

Immigrants also represent a substantial part of America’s essential workforce with at least 23 million immigrants — including more than one million Dreamers — making up one in five individuals in the essential workforce, the proponents of the bill estimate.

“Additionally, over two-thirds of the undocumented population are working on the frontlines of the pandemic, leaving them more vulnerable to the harms of COVID-19,” note the sponsors.

In 2018, one quarter of lawfully present immigrants and 45 percent of undocumented immigrants, were uninsured, Jayapal notes in the press release. While the immigrant population as a whole accounted for an estimated 14% of the population, immigrants made up 30% of the non-elderly uninsured population, the sponsors say.

The press release names scores of organizations supporting the bill.



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