Our children's health at stake

FIRM organizes monthly calls on state-level immigrant rights (send me an email nwells@communitychange.org if you'd like to be included). Last month we held a call on immigration and health rights. The Health Rights Organizing Project provided an overview of health rights at the national, state and local level- here are some of the notes from their presentation (if you'd like the full copy of the notes, please send me an email)- if you are working on health rights in your area, we'd love to hear about it HERE! Notes from G. Smith of Northwest Federation of Community Organizations:

Over the last ten years, the number of low-income children without healthcare has fallen --- thanks to a bill called S-CHIP. Unfortunately, that number has risen for immigrant children. 48% of low-income immigrant children have been left behind- and the situation is getting worse. This is in part due to the 1996 welfare law and anti-immigrant laws that set a five year bar before immigrant children could qualify to receive S-CHIP coverage. 

Fortunately, 21 states plus DC have decided to cover these immigrants in their own programs with state money. However, there are limitations on that coverage. There is a cap enrollment, and once it is met, all others are left out of the program.

As a part of the SCHIP reauthorization this year the Health Rights Organizing Project, is working with other national and local organizations to tackle the five year bar and obtain universal coverage for all. The SCHIP campaign is seen as step towards the direction of universal coverage.

A bill, ICHIA, has been introduced, that would lift the five year bar and give the option of Medicaid and benefits to children and pregnant women with qualified immigrant status. HROP has been working over the last few months to target the Senate and House Finance and Commerce committees that are overseeing ICHIA. There are a number of sign-on letters that have been collected and we are working on an ICHIA storybook that will be a collection of stories of those that are covered and those kids who are barred.

We are anticipating a mark-up of the legislation in May.

It must be noted that ICHIA is only a beginning. It only gives states the OPTION to cover legal immigrant and pregnant children, but does not mandate it. There will still be plenty of work at the state level to ensure the healthcare rights of all immigrants.

** WE NEED YOUR HELP** The Health Rights Organizing Project is putting together a story book to lift up the suffering of immigrant children due to the five-year bar. If you know of children who have been negatively affected by the five-year bar, please send an email to Nicola- nwells@communitychange.org.