For years we’ve known the important role health insurance plays in making sure kids have access to the care they need, and how Medicaid and CHIP are critical sources of coverage for millions of children and families. While most uninsured kids are eligible but not enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP, these programs are not open to many immigrant children.
There are a number of states, however (California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia), that have stepped up to the plate to cover children left out of coverage due to immigration status with state funds, and they could soon be joined by more. In this year’s legislative session, we’ve seen movement on Cover All Kids legislation in Connecticut, New Jersey, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, and more. Though many of these bills may not be signed into law this year, they have been positively received by legislators across party lines. In short, it’s a step in the right direction.
While xenophobia pre-dated the previous administration, the past four years have been especially difficult for many immigrant families as harmful policies and hateful rhetoric were commonplace at the highest levels of government. We saw parents whose citizen children were eligible for public benefits refuse them out of fear it could hurt other household members’ chances of getting green cards. This continued into the pandemic when services like health care, nutrition, and housing were as critical as ever and immigrant families were disproportionately affected as a result of systemic inequities.
After four years of the child uninsured rate increasing, proposing (and ultimately passing) legislation to Cover All Kids is one step states can take to roll out the welcome mat and rebuild trust in immigrant communities. Policies like this, in tandem with sustainable funding for outreach, simplified enrollment processes, and continuous coverage can help reverse the course of kids losing their health insurance and make sure they get and stay covered.