Immigration Update from SAALT

After months of debate and negotiations, both the House of Representatives and the Senate have developed bills reforming health care in this country. Currently, members of Congress are working out the differences between the two bills through private negotiations to present one merge bill to the President for his signature.

The two bills differ in several aspects in terms of immigrant access to health care. The House bill allows undocumented immigrants to participate in the health insurance exchange by using their own money; subjects all immigrants to the individual mandate; and increases access to culturally and linguistically appropriate health services. The Senate bill bars undocumented immigrants from participating in the health insurance exchange; and excludes undocumented immigrants from the individual mandate.

In both bills, legal immigrants are able to access health insurance either through their employer or a private plan and are eligible for subsidies through the health insurance exchange. However, both bills present common obstacles in immigrant access to health care. These include maintaining a five-year waiting period for legal immigrants to access Medicaid; restrictions on undocumented immigrants’ access to public insurance plans; and barring undocumented immigrants from eligibility for subsidies.

As movement on the bills continues, community members are encouraged to contact the White House and Congressional leaders to ensure that all Americans, including immigrants, are treated fairly and can access quality and affordable health coverage. Call these offices and ask them to support the following:

  • Eliminating the 5-year waiting period for legal immigrants seeking Medicaid
  • Removing the restriction on undocumented immigrants from buying health insurance at full cost in the exchange
  • Providing funding to support service-providers that assist immigrants in accessing health care

The Administration and Congress need to hear from the community this week. Key congressional offices include Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV); Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA), Sen. Steny Hoyer (MD), Sen. Dick Durbin (IL), Rep. George Miller (CA); Rep. Charles Rangel (NY), Rep. Henry Waxman (CA); Sen. Max Baucus (MT); Sen. Tom Harkin (IA); and Sen. Christopher Dodd (CT). You can contact the White House at (202) 456-1414 and the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to be connected with Congressional offices.

For further information, check out this resource from the National Immigration Law Center.

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