A Big Day for Immigrant Coverage!

Posted January, 9 2019 by Amanda Dunker

Yesterday we steeled ourselves for another low point in President Trump’s relentless campaign against immigrants. But some great stuff happened for immigrants too!

First, California’s new governor, Gavin Newsom, announced that his budget will include public health insurance for low-income, undocumented young adults. New York and California have both done a lot over the years to cover immigrants. Until yesterday you might have been able to say we were tied: both states cover undocumented children through public programs. But Gov. Newsom’s announcement puts California way ahead! In fact it would make California the first state in the country to cover undocumented adults.

Not everything’s bad!

HCFANY has advocated for a similar move in New York for the past several years, but this year we think New York should do more. Previously we advocated to raise eligibility for our Child Health Plus (CHP) program to age 29, which is when people with private insurance are no longer allowed to stay on their parents’ coverage. Since CHP covers children regardless of their immigration status, that would automatically help a substantial number of young, undocumented people.  But a better option would be to expand public coverage to all low-income people regardless of immigration status – not just people under 30. That could happen through the state’s Essential Plan, which covers people up to 200 percent of the federal poverty line with no deductible and minimal cost-sharing. The Essential Plan is partially funded with federal funding that cannot cover some types of immigrants, so this would have to be a state-only effort. But HCFANY estimates that over 100,000 uninsured people would get health insurance, and that seems worth it to us!

Second, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a new program that would guarantee health care for all uninsured New Yorkers, including undocumented immigrants. The program, called NYC Care, allows any uninsured New Yorker to visit one of the public hospital system’s clinics for primary care services and pay on a sliding scale. The city will provide $100 million to support the clinics. The effort is modeled after a successful project in San Francisco called Healthy San Francisco.

As HCFANY Steering member Elisabeth Benjamin explains, this is probably the most the city can do to support its immigrant population without state action. We’ll see how far New York is willing to go for immigrants when we see the governor’s budget sometime this month – but yesterday gives us hope for some big moves!

Leave a comment