Washington, D.C. – The National Health Law Program (NHeLP) calls on Congress to pass the Health Equity and Access Under the Law (HEAL) for Immigrant Families Act introduced today by Representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-WA-7) and Nanette Barragán (D-CA-44) and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ). This critical legislation restores and expands health insurance coverage for immigrants across the U.S.
The HEAL Act removes the five-year bar, a xenophobic waiting period on Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) eligibility for lawfully present immigrants; ensures access to Medicaid, CHIP, and the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) marketplaces for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients; and eliminates the unjust exclusion of undocumented immigrants from the ACA marketplaces.
Our nation’s current public health crisis has made it abundantly clear that health coverage and care are critical for every person, family, and community. The COVID-19 pandemic is placing painful racial health inequities on full display as it disproportionately harms Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC). These health injustices are rooted in centuries of racist and xenophobic policies, from the Immigration Act of 1882 to the 5-year waiting period on Medicaid, CHIP, and other public benefits imposed through the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996. As a result of these policies, noncitizens in the U.S. are more likely than citizens to lack health insurance coverage, making it difficult to access vital health care and driving inequitable health outcomes.
“Immigrant communities cannot wait,” said staff attorney Madeline Morcelle. “Lives, especially BIPOC lives, are hanging in the balance. Our country cannot heal from the pandemic or longstanding racial injustices until we ensure that all immigrants have equitable access to health coverage, among other needed reforms. The time for Congressional action is now and the HEAL for Immigrant Families Act charts the course.”