Child welfare advocates are praising a move by lawmakers in Utah and Florida to extend Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) benefits to lawfully present immigrant children who had previously been excluded for such services.
Thirty states and the District of Columbia now allow immigrant children, regardless of how long they have been in the United States, to be eligible for such services, said the Center for Law and Social Policy, which supports the expansion of services.
“This step is significant because of the harsh history of denying even the most basic benefits to immigrants, including children,” according to a recent CLASP report.
Provisions in the 1996 welfare reform law denied food stamp benefits (now called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) to many legal immigrants who arrived after the date of enactment, and imposed a five-year waiting period before most legal immigrants could qualify for other federally funded means-tested public benefit programs, such as Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Subsequent legislation allowed lawfully present immigrant children to access SNAP
In the 2009 reauthorization of CHIP, states were given the option to provide health insurance for lawfully present children during their first five years in the country and receive federal matching dollars for the coverage.
Adopting the options is a win-win for children and states. The benefits to children are clear – they have access to affordable health care, allowing them to receive needed care, the group said.
States that have taken up the expansion option have seen an increased rate of children with health insurance and a decline in unmet health needs among immigrant children, signaling that children covered through the option were otherwise uninsured, the group said.
CLASP said it was encouraging the remaining 20 states to should take the expansion option and make all lawfully present children eligible for Medicaid and CHIP. In addition to implementing the option, states can and should go further and make sure that children in mixed-status families don’t face unnecessary barriers to enrollment or using state dollars to include all residents in Medicaid or CHIP who are income eligible.
Info: http://tinyurl.com/zquotp5 (CLASP).