A group of Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday are introducing legislation that would make health care coverage more accessible to immigrants, citing the ongoing pandemic and its impact on immigrant frontline workers.
The bill would lift a current five-year waiting period legal immigrants must undergo before enrolling in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. It also would expand access to various types of health coverage for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children and protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The measure also would remove restrictions to prevent undocumented immigrants from purchasing health insurance on the Affordable Care Act marketplace.
“We must finally guarantee health care to everyone as a human right — regardless of immigration status, income, employment, or anything else,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., a primary sponsor of the bill, said in a statement.
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More than 5 million undocumented immigrants hold frontline jobs in essential industries, according to estimates by FWD.us, an immigration advocacy group. Immigrant populations are also less likely to have health insurance, putting them at higher risk of health problems. They generally are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, in part because a larger share of them have frontline jobs compared to U.S.-born workers, FWD.us said in a December report.