August 28, 2023, marked 60 years since the historic March on Washington for Jobs and…
Today, with endorsement from over 250 organizations, Representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA) have reintroduced the Health Equity and Access under Law (HEAL) for Immigrant Families Act to support access to health care for immigrant communities.
The legislation would restore enrollment to full-benefit Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to all federally authorized immigrants who are otherwise eligible and would remove the discriminatory five-year waiting period that bars immigrants from being able to access the care they need in a timely manner. The bill also removes the exclusion of undocumented immigrants from accessing health insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s Health Insurance Exchanges and protects access to affordable public health coverage for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.
There are an estimated 4.2 million Black immigrants living in the U.S., most of whom have traveled to the U.S. from the Caribbean, Africa, and Latin America for a myriad of reasons including pursuing educational and economic opportunities, fleeing from government destabilization and gender-based violence, and escaping other safety and environmental threats.
While they are a growing population in the United States, many Black immigrants are often discounted in critical health policy discussions. Black immigrant households make $8,000 less than the average U.S. household and $4,200 less than the average immigrant household. They are also more likely to live under the federal poverty line. Low-income immigrants, including Black women and girls, are more than twice as likely to be uninsured as compared to low-income non-immigrant citizens and, therefore, less likely to be able to access critical healthcare for themselves and their families.
Additionally, reform is needed to expand and protect safe pathways to citizenship for Black immigrants and to address the heightened fear of criminalization and deportation that Black immigrant communities face that may discourage Black immigrant communities from seeking public resources and healthcare altogether.
The HEAL for Immigrant Families Act is an important first step to making healthcare more accessible to all immigrants in the U.S., especially Black immigrant women and families who face unique barriers to accessing coverage and care overall.