Immigrant NYers: Time is Now to Pass "Coverage for All"
Monday, January 31, 2022
Advocates for immigrant New Yorkers are urging the State Legislature to pass a bill to extend health coverage to undocumented New Yorkers earning up to 200% of the federal poverty level.
Known as "Coverage for All," the bill would make the state-funded Essential Plan available to undocumented residents who are currently excluded from health-insurance programs because of their immigration status.
Arline Cruz, associate director of health programs for Make the Road New York, said a recent report estimates the bill would bring coverage to 46,000 people.
"With the ACA (Affordable Care Act), we've been able to make really large strides and really decrease the coverage gap," Cruz pointed out. "However, immigrant New Yorkers still remain the highest uninsured population at the moment."
The bill passed the State Assembly Health Committee last week, and the state Senate Health Committee takes it up on Tuesday. Opponents say legal status should be required to enroll in the health program. But Cruz countered it makes no sense to deny undocumented people coverage, as they are taxpayers and many have been essential workers during the pandemic.
Cruz noted all New York children can access Child Health Plus, regardless of immigration status, until age 19. She believes options should be made available for young people when they age out, and argued there is no time to wait.
"A lot of our legislators are really looking to the Biden administration to make a move and say that we can use federal dollars to provide coverage for immigrants," Cruz observed. "However, I don't think it's the right move. And it's not necessarily in our history, New York's history, to wait for the federal government."
New York City has a program, NYC Care, which provides health care to city residents who don't qualify for insurance, including those who are undocumented.
Cruz thinks it is crucial to bring coverage to folks across the state, many of whom avoid seeking necessary medical care because of the cost.
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