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Fixing our Immigration System and Improving Health Care Access for All

Fixing our Immigration System and Improving Health Care Access for All

As groups across the country continue to call on Congress to act on comprehensive immigration reform, the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) published recommendations to ensure that any immigration legislation promotes the entire nation’s public health and offers real access to affordable, quality care for all. Immigration reform is of particular importance to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs), as more immigrants have come to the U.S. from Asia and the Pacific Islands during the last decade than from any other region in the world. The report is linked here: Blueprint for a Better America: Ensuring Our Immigration System Advances the Health and Well-Being of Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and All Immigrants.

When we talk about immigration, we don’t talk enough about the health of our families. As we work to improve the lives of immigrants and their families, we must remove barriers to health care and ensure that everyone receives the care they need. Our country will be stronger when all communities – regardless of immigration status – have access to care and the same opportunity at a healthy future.

While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has expanded health care coverage options for some immigrants, immigration status continues to stand as the major social determinant impacting health and hampering the progress of immigrant communities in unnecessary ways. The report includes the following recommendations to promote public health and economic well-being:

  1. Foster healthy communities by keeping families together.
  2. Fulfill the promise of health reform by removing barriers to health care for immigrants.
  3. Fix our broken immigration system and create a fair pathway to citizenship.
  4. Include immigrant workers in the U.S workforce while enforcing existing labor laws.
  5. Foster civic engagement, equal opportunity, and integration for immigrants.
  6. Address global and U.S. factors that create migration for economic opportunities.

While comprehensive immigration reform has stalled in Congress, policymakers have taken concrete steps to address the nation’s broken immigration system. The Health Equity & Access under the Law for Immigrant Women & Families Act of 2015 (HEAL Act) (HR 1974) introduced by Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico removes legal barriers to federal health programs for lawfully present immigrants in Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and the ACA’s Marketplace. More recently, Congressman Luis Gutierrez of Illinois introduced the Exchange Inclusion for a Healthy America Act of 2015 (HR 3659), which allows all eligible persons, regardless of immigration status, to access coverage in the ACA’s Marketplace with financial help. The bill would require all immigrants who file taxes and have state residency to obtain health insurance coverage in order to comply with the ACA’s individual mandate. 

To learn more, download our report today.

The Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum is one of CPEHN's four founding ethnic partner organizations.

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