Assembly Holds Hearing on Immigrant Access to Health Care

C4A LogoGuest post by Claudia Calhoon, MPH, Director of Health Policy at the New York Immigration Coalition.

On Wednesday, December 13, the Assembly Committee on Health, the Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Taskforce, and the Assembly Taskforce on New Americans convened a public hearing on Immigrant access to healthcare.  Coverage 4 All, a campaign of Health Care For All New York led by the New York Immigration Coalition and Make the Road New York was instrumental in advocating for the hearing. The campaign’s goal is to expand insurance eligibility to all New Yorkers to reduce disparities in coverage.   Barriers to coverage are just one of the many current threats to immigrant health access and quality.

Agencies that provided testimony included the New York State Department of Health, the New York City Mayor’s Office for Immigrants Affairs, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and New York City Health + Hospitals.  In addition, fifteen individuals from a range of social service, advocacy, health care, and community settings spoke about the impact of the federal administration on immigrant mobility, health utilization, coverage eligibility, and enforcement of language access regulation. Amid a federal landscape hostile to immigrants, New York State programs and protections are increasingly important.

Critical areas of particular attention included making sure that new mothers know they can safely continue to enroll in Medicaid and get prenatal care regardless of their immigration status, and continue to use the Women’s Infants, and Children (WIC) Food and Nutrition services. Another area of common interest among advocates was the opportunity that the state has to expand the Child Health Plus insurance program to cover young adults up to age 29 at a cost of $81 million.  Dr. Alan Shapiro, co-founder of Terra Firma, which works with unaccompanied minors, noted that health needs don’t end when young people turn 19.  These individuals “still have comprehensive primary care needs. They need access to immunizations, urgent care, sexual and reproductive health services.” The Child Health Plus Expansion is part of Health Care for All New York’s policy agenda, and the key priority of the Coverage 4 All campaign.

Hearing testimony from multiple stakeholders also highlighted the critical nature of improving enforcement of language access regulations, addressing mental health needs of immigrant communities subject to heightened stress under enhanced federal immigration enforcement, and ensuring that safety net hospitals have the revenue they need to care for all New York State residents.

NYIC_Logo-RV_Mar13,2012Guest post by Max Hadler, Senior Health Policy Manager at the New York Immigration Coalition.

Immigrant New Yorkers are under relentless attack from the anti-immigrant forces that wield the levers of control in Washington, DC. In this environment, it falls on New York State to devise solutions to the crisis. Access to health care represents a key element of immigrant inclusion and protection that state and local governments must address. In acknowledgment of the ongoing health access disadvantages that immigrants face and the acute needs related to the current sociopolitical dynamic, the New York State Assembly has called a public hearing on immigrant health for 10am on December 13. Public testimony is strongly encouraged from anyone with a stake in immigrant health access. The hearing will be held at 250 Broadway, New York, NY. This is the official Hearing Notice.

The hearing has been called by Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried and cosponsored by New Americans Task Force Chair Michaelle Solages and Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force Chair Marcos Crespo. Coverage 4 All, a campaign of Health Care For All New York led by the New York Immigration Coalition and Make the Road New York, has been instrumental in advocating for the hearing. The campaign’s goal is to expand insurance eligibility to all New Yorkers to reduce disparities in coverage (noncitizens are five times more likely than citizens to be uninsured), but coverage is just one of the many current threats to immigrant health access:

  • Persistent restrictions on health coverage based on immigration status, exacerbated by the Trump administration’s cancellation of many forms of immigration relief
  • Pervasive fear of using health care services because of the dramatic increase in immigration enforcement and threats against immigrant communities
  • Acute behavioral health care needs layered on a system that already cannot meet the demand for culturally and linguistically responsive behavioral health services
  • Major cuts to uncompensated care funding that threaten the financial sustainability of safety-net health care systems
  • Language access laws that lack sufficient monitoring and enforcement mechanisms

We strongly encourage testimony from anyone with a stake in immigrant health access – directly affected community members, concerned citizens, immigrant rights advocates, health care consumer advocates, health care providers, social services providers, legal services providers, local and state health officials, and faith communities, to name a few. This hearing is an unprecedented chance to voice concerns to the New York State Assembly, and to propose solutions the state can undertake to improve immigrant health access. Do not miss this opportunity!

NOTE: You must receive an invitation to testify. If you would like an invitation, please e-mail Claudia Calhoon of the New York Immigration Coalition at ccalhoon@nyic.org. If you are unable to attend the hearing in person, you are strongly encouraged to submit written testimony (the email for written submissions is included in the official Hearing Notice).

PreschoolersGuest post by Ben Anderson, Director of Health Policy at Children’s Defense Fund-NY. Here we are 39 days and counting since the September 30th deadline for Congress to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and yet families of the 350,000 New York children who depend on CHIP for coverage are still waiting for Congress to act. Sadly, once again children are being held hostage to political debates.

Created specifically for children, CHIP’s benefits and provider networks are designed to ensure children in working families who are not eligible for Medicaid have access to child-appropriate services, providers, specialists, and facilities. Despite bipartisan support for a strong, five-year extension of CHIP in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, debate continues about how to pay for CHIP and the extension of other important health programs.

Last week, the House of Representatives passed the Championing Healthy Kids Act, a bill that includes the same strong, bipartisan five-year extension of CHIP that the House Energy and Commerce and Senate Finance Committees approved and that most child health advocates strongly support. However, the bill passed by the House pays for the extension of CHIP and other critical health programs for vulnerable populations with offsets that would cause undue harm to children and families. These provisions passed over the objections of many in the House and are jeopardizing the bill’s passage in the Senate.

The sad irony is that Congress is bickering over how to fund CHIP and other programs in the bill, when the total cost for these programs is merely 1% of the amount Congress will add to the deficit to provide tax cuts to the wealthiest individuals in America. The senselessness must end. We’re so close to the finish line. There is bipartisan support for CHIP. Senate and House members, Republicans and Democrats alike, agree on what we need to do for children’s health. Congress needs to finish its homework and reach a bipartisan consensus on funding CHIP.

CHP PictureIn the midst of the chaos being caused by the most recent effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, there is another very important program at risk: the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). CHIP covers more than 9 million children nationwide and more than 630,000 in New York State alone. Without Congressional action, federal funding for CHIP will expire on September 30 of this year. New York will exhaust its share of CHIP funds in March 2018.

But there is some good news! This morning, the Senate Finance Committee released a bill that would extend federal funding for CHIP for an additional five years – through 2022. The bill keeps the additional federal matching funds (or “the 23% bump”) for states through 2019. The bill would also extend other provisions of CHIP such as:

  • Child Enrollment Contingency Fund – this is for states that predict a CHIP funding shortfall because of higher than expected enrollment
  • Qualifying State Option – this is a rule that allows states to use CHIP funding to pay for the difference between Medicaid and CHIP reimbursement to providers who care for higher-income children in Medicaid expansion versions of CHIP
  • Express Lane Eligibility – this option allows states to use eligibility for other public programs to make eligibility determinations for CHIP. This makes it much easier for kids to get covered!
  • Affordability Standards – Premiums for CHIP cannot cost more than 5 percent of income for families earning less than 300 % of the Federal Poverty Level

New York’s kids and children across the country who rely on CHIP need this bill to make it across the finish line. Please join HCFANY for a webinar on Thursday, September 21 at 2PM to hear from Judith Arnold, Director, Division of Eligibility and Marketplace Integration at the New York State Department of Health, and some of our advocates here at HCFANY on CHIP, what it means for New York, and how you can get involved.

Check out HCFANY’s latest fact sheet on CHIP here.