Immigration Changes Could Lead to Dropped Children’s Health Coverage

As many as 2 million U.S. citizen children could drop health coverage through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), despite remaining eligible, if proposed changes to immigration policy go into effect.

“When kids don’t have access to health care they are not getting the preventative services that they need. When they are sick they’re not going to the doctor, so you have an increase of emergency room visits,” said Laura Peralta-Schulte, senior government relations advocate for Network, the Catholic social justice lobby. “There’s just a myriad of problems presented when people can’t access health.”

Since the first draft was leaked in February of new Department of Homeland Security guidelines to determine if immigrants in the U.S. seeking permanent residence could become a “public charge,” advocates have worried that the changes could lead immigrants and their family members to drop out of public benefits programs in order to increase their chances of gaining a green card.

“We’re asking parents to make a choice between food, health care, and maybe being able to stay here permanently in this country, and this goes against everything our faith tradition teaches, any faith tradition,” said Patrick Carolan, executive director of the Franciscan Action Network.

An issue brief from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation strives to predict exactly how extreme this result will be for Medicaid and CHIP disenrollment by using data on the results of past welfare reform.

“The shocking thing when you look at some of the work that Kaiser has done is just the sheer volume of folks that could be impacted by the changes in public charge,” said Peralta-Schulte. “It sounds like a really wonky issue in some obscure immigration policy but the fact is that according to their reports, 20 million, or one in four kids has at least one immigrant parent.”

By Maria Benevento for NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER
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