New Federal Bill Restores Vital Health Care Services to Immigrant Women and Families

Center for Reproductive Rights Calls Measure “Crucial,” Urges Congress to Support Health Care Coverage for all Women

NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–March 14, 2014.  Yesterday Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) introduced the HEAL Immigrant Women and Families Act, a new federal bill that would reestablish health coverage options and health care services for immigrant women and their families.

The Health Equity and Access Under the Law (HEAL) for Immigrant Women and Families Act restores access to Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for all lawfully present immigrants who are otherwise eligible and already paying into the coverage options via their taxes.  Current law dictates lawfully present immigrants are subject to a five-year waiting period before becoming eligible to enroll in those critical health care programs.  Such discriminatory barriers did not exist for immigrants prior to 1996, when politicians changed the law as part of a larger welfare reform effort.

Further, the bill specifically enables lawfully present young people (DREAMers) granted status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to participate fully in the Affordable Care Act—by allowing them to buy coverage on the health exchanges, obtain subsidies designed to make coverage affordable, and access care through the Basic Health Program—and to enroll in Medicaid or CHIP if they are otherwise eligible.

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“All women deserve high-quality medical care and the ability to freely choose the best health coverage options for themselves and their families. But for too long, immigrant women have been left behind in the United States’ health care system and disproportionately affected by politically motivated attacks on access to affordable and quality health care.

“By restoring access to a full range of affordable health care, including essential reproductive health services such as access to contraception and screenings for cervical and breast cancer, this bill will help ensure every woman has the ability to make her own decisions about her family, her future, and her life.

“We applaud Congresswoman Lujan Grisham for her leadership in introducing the HEAL Immigrant Women and Families Act, and we urge her colleagues in Congress to support this crucial legislation.”

The HEAL Immigrant Women and Families Act is yet another example of proactive federal legislation which aims to guarantee all women access to essential health care services.  Congresswoman Lujan Grisham is also one of the 108 House sponsors of the federal Women’s Health Protection Act (S. 1696/H.R. 3471)—a Congressional bill that would enforce and protect every woman’s access to safe and legal abortion care, no matter what state she happens to live in, maintaining the framework of regulations and limits recognized in Roe v. Wade.  The Women’s Health Protection Act also has 34 Senate sponsors and received support from three localities in  Austin (TX), San Francisco (CA), and Dane County, Wisconsin.