Guest 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.