Expanding health insurance coverage to undocumented New Yorkers has gained the backing a broad coalition of policy experts, business lobbyists and immigrant-rights advocates as state lawmakers debate whether to include it in the state budget due next week.
The issue of expanding health insurance to undocumented people in the state has largely flown under the radar this budget season in Albany as activists have called for additional benefits to aid the undocumented community, such as replenishment of the excluded workers fund.
But the "coverage for all" proposal could have more long-lasting effects: Extending coverage as part of a "last mile" of New York residents who not yet covered with health insurance.
“New York can step up and do the right thing,” said Elisabeth Benjamin, the vice president of Health Initiatives, Community Service Society of NY. “As 8 of 10 New Yorkers agree, health care should be accessible to everyone, regardless of immigration status. And the price is right – we can cover our neighbors for only $345 million, a small fraction of New York’s health care budget.”
The move would affect all New Yorkers up to 200% of the federal proverty line who are excluded from coverage due to their immigration status. It has the backing of insurance companies, as well as top Democrats on the Assembly and Senate health committees in the state Legislature.
“No New Yorker should be denied health care because of immigration status,” said Assembly Health Committee Chair and bill sponsor Richard Gottfried. “New York should be a progressive leader in promoting health equity, and expanding health coverage to undocumented adults is good fiscal and moral policy. It’s great news that both the Assembly and Senate have included ‘Coverage for All’ bill in our one-House budget proposals."
And it has the backing of the New York State Business Council, who call it an important step in reducing costs of emergency care.
"By allowing undocumented immigrants access to the Essential Plan, we are moving that important population from expensive emergency care to more affordable primary care," said Lev Ginsburg, the counsel to the New York State Business Council. The proposal gives every New Yorker access to health coverage, helps our neighbors and makes New York healthier – all in a fiscally responsible way. We strongly support and urge passage of Coverage4All in the Budget."
It's estimated nearly 426,000 residents in the state are not eligible for health insurance coverage due to their immigration status. That includes 154,000 undocumented residents who live below 200% of the federal poverty line.
"Over the past few months, we have brought together a diverse group of advocates, business leaders, everyday New Yorkers, and elected officials to secure healthcare justice for our immigrant communities," said Murad Awawdeh, the executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. "We joined together because we all believe it is long past time that we extend health coverage to low-income New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status. Now, it is time for Governor Kathy Hochul and the state legislature to finish the work we started and include Coverage for All in the state budget. This goes beyond healthcare justice; it is a critical first step in New York State's road to recovery."