WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) introduced the Health Equity and Access under Law (HEAL) for Immigrant Families Act, bicameral legislation that removes cruel and unnecessary 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. Booker first introduced the legislation in the Senate last spring.
The HEAL for Immigrant Families Act ensures 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 while ensuring these individuals are able to obtain premium-tax credits and cost-sharing reductions.
“For far too long, many immigrant communities have been unfairly denied access to health coverage leading many individuals and families to go without necessary, essential health services, such as preventive care, diagnostic testing, and treatments,” said Senator Booker. “The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the urgency of addressing these health coverage gaps as immigrant communities face heightened risks for the disease. Health care is a right, and it shouldn’t depend on one’s immigration status. I am proud to re-introduce this groundbreaking legislation with Congresswomen Jayapal and Barragán that will expand access to health care for many immigrant communities and help reduce unfair and unjust barriers that currently exist within our system.”
“We must finally guarantee health care to everyone as a human right — regardless of immigration status, income, employment, or anything else,” said Congresswoman Jayapal. “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. 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. 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.
Immigrants are significantly more likely to be uninsured compared to citizens, placing them at a higher risk for adverse health and financial consequences. In 2018, one quarter of lawfully present immigrants and 45 percent of undocumented immigrants were uninsured. 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 HEAL for Immigrant Families Act would make everyone — regardless of immigration status — eligible to purchase qualified health insurance coverage, obtain premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions, and enroll in Basic Health Programs.
The legislation is endorsed by hundreds of local, state, and national organizations including Advocates for Youth, All*Above All, Asian Pacific Islander American Health Forum, American Public Health Association, Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO), Association of Muslim Health Professionals, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Center for Law and Social Policy, Center for Reproductive Rights, Families USA, Guttmacher Institute, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women's Reproductive Justice Agenda, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), National Council of Jewish Women, National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, National Health Law Program (NHeLP), National Immigration Law Center (NILC), NAKASEC VA, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice (Latina Institute), National Partnership for New Americans, National Partnership for Women and Families, NARAL Prochoice America, Physicians for Reproductive Health, Planned Parenthood Federation of American, SisterLove, Unite for Gender and Reproductive Equity (URGE).
“Racism and xenophobia are at the root of policies that deny Asian American and Pacific Islander, Black, and Latino immigrants access to health care. Discriminatory barriers to coverage mean immigrants are often forced to choose between quality care and prohibitively expensive out-of-pocket costs,” said Sung Yeon Choimorrow, the executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum.“The HEAL for Immigrant Families Act would help immigrants get the care they need by removing discriminatory restrictions to accessing health insurance. Amid a deadly pandemic that has disproportionately targeted communities of color and a rise in harassment and violence against Asian Americans, it is a critical step towards racial justice that all of us — especially those most vulnerable — have access to the resources needed to thrive."
“Everyone – every person and every family – needs access to healthcare, including the full range of reproductive care, regardless of their im/migration status or how long they have been living in this country. The COVID-19 pandemic that has devastated Latina/x, Black, Indigenous, AAPI, and other underserved communities has also highlighted the stark disparities in healthcare access and outcomes we face in this country. It is irrefutable that we need to pass bold legislation like the HEAL for Immigrant Families Act to expand healthcare coverage for all im/migrants in our communities,” said Lupe M. Rodríguez, the executive director at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice (Latina Institute). “We are proud to have been at the forefront among those driving the push for the HEAL for Immigrant Families Act since its first introduction, and we applaud Representatives Pramila Jayapal and Nanette Diaz Barragán for their leadership and resolve in championing this groundbreaking bill.”
“Immigrant communities cannot wait. They urgently need equitable access to health care. The HEAL Immigrant Families Act charts the course for achieving equitable coverage,” said Elizabeth Taylor, the Executive Director of the National Health Law Program. “With lives hanging in the balance, we urge Congress to swiftly pass this legislation.”
"Immigrants are more than just our status. We are essential members of our communities, and the HEAL Act will remove barriers that have wrongfully denied millions of immigrants and their loved ones access to critical health care for too long,” said Marielena Hincapié, the Executive Director of the National Immigration Law Center. “We are proud to support this bill, and we commend Representatives Jayapal and Barragán for their leadership in bringing it forward. The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately harmed immigrants and their loved ones, and continues to underscore that our health is interconnected. Now more than ever, we must redouble our efforts to ensure that everyone in our communities has the ability to thrive, and that includes living a healthy life.”
The bicameral HEAL for Immigrant Families Act is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Markey, Gillibrand, Merkley, Murray, Hirono, Sanders, Blumenthal, and Warren.
It is also co-sponsored by U.S. Representatives Adams, Auchincloss, Barragán, Bass, Beyer, Blumenauer, Bonamici, Bowman, Bush, Cárdenas, Carson, Castro, Chu, Cicilline, Clark, Clarke, Cohen, Connolly, Correa, Danny K. Davis, DeSaulnier, Deutch, Escobar, Espaillat, Gallego, García (IL), Garcia (TX), Gomez, Green, Grijalva, Hayes, Jackson Lee, Jacobs, Johnson (GA), Jones, Keating, Lawrence, Lee (CA), Leger Fernandez, Levin (MI), Lieu, Lowenthal, Carolyn B. Maloney, McGovern, Meeks, Meng, Moore, Nadler, Napolitano, Newman, Norton, Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Panetta, Payne, Perlmutter, Pingree, Pocan, Pressley, Roybal-Allard, Rush, Scanlon, Schakowsky, Sires, Soto, Speier, Takano, Tlaib, Torres (CA), Torres (NY), Trone, Vargas, Veasey, Vela, Velázquez, Wasserman Schultz, Watson Coleman, Welch, Williams, and Wilson.