Congress’ HEAL Act ensures health care access for undocumented

Reps. Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, and Nanette Barragan, D-California, along with Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, introduced the HEAL Act July 27 morning, which aims to grant healthcare access to all who reside in the U.S., regardless of immigration status.

Currently, most immigrants must wait five years or longer before they can enroll in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Undocumented immigrants are completely barred from these programs as well as from purchasing insurance from the Affordable Care Act marketplace.

The HEAL Act removes the five-year bar in Medicaid/CHIP, opens up the ACA marketplace, and expands access to Medicare so that immigrants can access the affordable health care they need.

Health disparities

In 2019, among the non-elderly population, 25% of lawfully present immigrants and more than four in 10 undocumented immigrants were uninsured compared to less than one in 10 citizens. Lack of health insurance is one of the key contributors to persistent inequities in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of health conditions.

In a statement introducing the bill, Barragan, Booker and Jayapal jointly stated: “The introduction of the HEAL Act of 2023 comes just in time for the 58th anniversary of Medicaid and Medicare and stands at the precipice of unceasing and intensifying political attacks on immigrants and health care access across the country.”

“This includes the harshest anti-immigration laws in the country and ongoing abortion bans that disproportionately affect women and communities of color,” wrote the members of Congress.

Health care is a human right

“We must finally guarantee health care to everyone as a human right — regardless of immigration status, income, employment, or anything else,” said Jayapal, in a statement announcing the bill. “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.”

“Every person deserves healthcare, no matter their immigration status,” said Barragán. “Healthcare is a human right, and we must remove the unnecessary barriers that prevent immigrant families from the medical care they need to live and thrive. The HEAL Act will help reduce racial health inequities and ensure everyone has access to quality healthcare in their communities.”

Supporters

“Everyone, regardless of their immigration status, deserves access to comprehensive, quality health care,” said Booker. “By creating a more equitable health care system, we can create healthier communities and a stronger, more resilient economy.”

The bill, which does not yet have a number, has 56 co-sponsors in the House and nine cosponsors in the Senate. It is also supported by the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice, and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, among other organizations.

The proposed legislation is already garnering backlash on social media. (Ethnic Media Services)

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