Some states governed by Democrats are extending health insurance coverage to adult immigrants who are in the country illegally, including the elderly.
According to a localdvm.com report, last year, Illinois became the first state to offer a Medicaid-like program for older immigrants last year. It used a new budget to expand the program. California followed suit, including coverage for those 50 and over in the latest budget. And Oregon’s governor signed a plan this week offering benefits to low-income immigrants over 19.
Meanwhile, immigrant rights advocates in New York hope to achieve similar measures.
In recent years, about half a dozen states have focused on health coverage for immigrant children and young adults without legal status. Illinois, California, Oregon are among those covering children. Last year, California began offering public insurance for all low-income residents under 26.
Among those under 65, roughly 46% of immigrants in the country illegally do not have insurance, compared with about 25% of immigrants with legal status. About 9% of citizens are uninsured, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis in July, which didn’t include data for those over 65.
Supporters of this insurance coverage claim the trend is of tremendous importance during a coronavirus pandemic that has left immigrants, who are disproportionately essential workers, more vulnerable to COVID-19.
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On the other hand, opponents question the cost and using taxpayer funding.
However, experts believe the insurance coverage will ultimately save money and address looming issues with an aging immigrant population.
A matter of ethics
Immigrants, both with legal status and without, are more likely to be uninsured than citizens. Obstacles include cost and limited options. As an example, green card holders must wait five years for Medicaid eligibility.
In addition, when it comes to using public benefits, there are also concerns about repercussions like deportation. A Trump administration rule denying green cards to immigrants who used public benefits resulted in a decline of the use of food stamps in a 37% among noncitizens from 2016 to 2019, according to a Migration Policy Institute study in December.
World Health Organization urged countries to pay health care costs for all migrants and refugees.
“Any inhabitant of the U.S. has the right to have their basic health care needs met,” said Lawrence Gostin, director of the WHO Collaborating Center on Public Health Law and Human Rights at Georgetown University. “It’s a matter of ethics and the international right to health.”