WASHINGTON — Today, the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the National Immigration Law Center, alongside 16 other advocacy, immigrant rights, and health care organizations called on Congress to pass the HEAL for Immigrant Families Act. This critical legislation — introduced this morning by Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA-7) and Nanette Barragán (D-CA-44), and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) — restores and expands health care coverage for immigrants in the United States, who have been denied access to federal health programs despite paying federal taxes.
Specifically, the bill restores enrollment to full-benefit Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to all federally authorized immigrants who are otherwise eligible by removing the 5-year waiting period. The bill also removes the unjustifiable exclusion of undocumented immigrants from accessing health insurance coverage on the Affordable Care Act’s Health insurance exchanges. It also ensures access to public and affordable health coverage for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.
This legislation comes as the country continues to grapple with systemic racism in every institution, including health care. Noncitizens of the U.S. are more likely than citizens to be uninsured, making it more difficult to access needed care. Centuries of racist policies, such as the 1996 “Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act,” and “public charge” restrictions on immigrants, have contributed to many of today's health disparities.
These disparities are on full display as COVID-19 disproportionately devastates communities of color and local officials continue to attack immigrant communities by supporting restricting or deprioritizing their access to vaccines. Last month, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky explicitly named racism as a serious public health threat, highlighting the structural barriers to health and well-being that people of color face.
Statement from Sung Yeon Choimorrow, executive director, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum:
“Racism and xenophobia are at the root of policies that deny Asian American and Pacific Islander, Black, and Latino immigrants access to health care. Discriminatory barriers to coverage mean immigrants are often forced to choose between quality care and prohibitively expensive out-of-pocket costs. The HEAL for Immigrant Families Act would help immigrants get the care they need by removing discriminatory restrictions to accessing health insurance. Amid a deadly pandemic that has disproportionately targeted communities of color and a rise in harassment and violence against Asian Americans, it is a critical step towards racial justice that all of us - especially those most vulnerable - have access to the resources needed to thrive."
Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
“At Planned Parenthood, we believe that people of all races, income levels, and immigration statuses deserve access to quality, affordable health care, including sexual and reproductive care. However, being an immigrant remains a barrier to accessing essential care and making reproductive decisions for too many. Planned Parenthood proudly supports the HEAL for Immigrant Families Act as part of our commitment to advocating for access to health care for everyone. We stand with our patients, immigrant communities, and our allies leading this fight.”
Statement from Marielena Hincapié, executive director, the National Immigration Law Center:
"The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored our interdependence and the importance of ensuring that everyone in our communities can access the care we need. Immigrants and their loved ones have faced disproportionate harm in the pandemic, in part because many are excluded from access to the health insurance their tax dollars pay for. We applaud Representative Jayapal and Senator Booker for the reintroduction of the HEAL Act, which moves us towards a world where a person's country of birth no longer determines their ability to live a healthy life, and where all of us have the freedom to thrive."
Statement from Nicole Melaku, executive director, National Partnership for New Americans:
“All of our communities need health care and critical resources in order to thrive and live life free of violence. For too long, immigrants have been excluded from health care benefits like access to Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program, and coverage in the Affordable Care Act's health insurance exchanges, based on their immigration status. These unnecessary barriers disproportionately shut out Black, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander, and other immigrants of color, exacerbating racial inequities at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated those communities and shown us that health coverage and care are critical for everyone and our collective wellbeing. The HEAL for Immigrant Families Act removes some of these barriers and brings us closer to a just vision where our society cares for all, regardless of their immigration status or how long they have been here."
Statement from Jody Rabhan, chief policy officer, National Council of Jewish Women:
“Consistent with the Jewish value of kavod ha bri’ot, National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) believes that every individual deserves to be healthy and thrive to obtain care with respect and dignity. However, immigrants are forced to navigate a complicated patchwork of care that often forces them to delay, forego, or pay out-of-pocket for basic health services. The need for these services doesn’t discriminate based on immigration status or race and neither should our government. As evidenced by the systemic inequities that continue to plague our health care system and the COVID-19 pandemic, access to care is a basic human right critical for women, children, and families. The HEAL for Immigrant Families Act would eliminate discriminatory legal barriers denying immigrants access to the health care programs their tax dollars support. Lawmakers must pass this essential legislation to ensure that immigrant families receive the health care they need, fostering healthier communities and a stronger economy.”
Statement from Clare Coleman, president & CEO, National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association:
“Harmful policy barriers prevent millions of immigrants in communities across the country from accessing preventive health care they need, including family planning and sexual health services, because they lack health insurance coverage. We strongly support the HEAL Act, which expands immigrants’ access to essential and comprehensive health care and brings us one step closer to health equity in this country.”
Statement from Dr. Jamila Perritt, MD MPH FACOG, president & CEO, Physicians for Reproductive Health:
“As a physician who provides care to many people, including those from immigrant communities, I know that passing the HEAL for Immigrant Families Act is critical to helping immigrants get the health care they need. The HEAL Act would remove xenophobic, politically motivated barriers that prevent immigrant communities from accessing health services, including limiting access to federal health programs like Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). These restrictions disproportionately impact Black, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander, and other immigrants of color, and exacerbate inequities in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of health conditions.
“Especially as we continue to navigate the ongoing public health crisis, it has been made abundantly clear that health care free from discrimination should be the reality across this country for every person, family, and community. Physicians for Reproductive Health is a proud supporter of this important piece of legislation.”
Statement from Ilyse Hogue, president, NARAL Pro-Choice America:
“It is more important than ever that Congress take action and pass the HEAL for Immigrant Families Act to ensure that immigrant families have access to the healthcare they need with dignity and without delay. This critical legislation comes as horrific anti-Asian violence is on the rise in this country and communities of color, including many immigrant communities and families, are experiencing the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic as a result of systemic racism. The HEAL for Immigrant Families Act would bring us one step closer to a world in which every body has the freedom and ability to access the care they need regardless of how long they have been in the United States or the immigration status they have been granted.”
Statement from Sana Syed, MD, MPH, health policy & advocacy director, American Muslim Health Professionals:
"American Muslim Health Professionals supports the HEAL Act as it will play a critical role in uprooting one of the key factors contributing to systemic racism in healthcare, i.e., healthcare access. The HEAL Act represents one small step towards more equitable care that we so badly need in this country as exemplified over the past year."
Statement from Elizabeth Taylor, executive director, National Health Law Program:
“Immigrant communities cannot wait. They urgently need equitable access to health care. The HEAL Immigrant Families Act charts the course for achieving equitable coverage. With lives hanging in the balance, the National Health Law Program urges Congress to swiftly pass this legislation.”
Statement from Lupe M. Rodríguez, executive director, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice (Latina Institute):
“As an im/migrant who came to this country at a young age with my family seeking specialized care for my brother, I know what it means to struggle for access to vital healthcare. Seeing the disproportionate impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our communities, it has become increasingly clear that every family needs access to healthcare, including the full range of reproductive care. The structural and economic barriers that have blocked Latina/x, Black, Indigenous, AAPI, and other communities from living with dignity and justice have only been exacerbated by this pandemic and created greater inequities. It is time to pass bold legislation like the HEAL for Immigrant Families Act, which would expand healthcare coverage for all im/migrants, regardless of our documentation status or how long we have been living in the U.S. The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice (Latina Institute) applauds Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Rep. Nanette Barragán, and Sen. Cory Booker for introducing this groundbreaking bill in the House and Senate today and taking a step forward in the fight for healthcare access for all of us.”
The full list of organizations signing on to this statement supporting the legislation include:
National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum
Planned Parenthood Federation of America
National Immigration Law Center
URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity
National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association
National Partnership for New Americans
Physicians for Reproductive Health
In Our Own Voice: National Black Women's Reproductive Justice Agenda
Bold Futures NM
National Partnership for Women & Families
National Council of Jewish Women
Shriver Center on Poverty Law
NARAL Pro-Choice America
American Muslim Health Professionals
National Health Law Program
National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice
The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) is the only multi-issue, progressive, community organizing and policy advocacy organization for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women and girls in the U.S. NAPAWF’s mission is to build collective power so that all AAPI women and girls can have full agency over our lives, our families, and our communities.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable sexual and reproductive health care for all people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect, and without judgment, striving to create equitable access to health care. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable education and information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives. Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that supports the independently incorporated Planned Parenthood affiliates operating health centers across the U.S.
Founded in 1979, the National Immigration Law Center is the leading advocacy organization in the United States exclusively dedicated to defending and advancing the rights and opportunities of low-income immigrants and their loved ones. NILC’s mission is grounded in the belief that everyone living in the U.S. — regardless of race, gender/gender identity, immigration, and economic status — should have equal access to justice, resources, and educational and economic opportunities that enable them to achieve their full human potential. NILC is committed to advancing its mission — which intersects race, immigration status, and class — through a racial, economic, and gender justice and equity orientation. NILC seeks to achieve just laws and policies that address systemic inequities, create narrative and culture change for an inclusive and equitable society, and build a healthier and more powerful movement.