CityViews: Call on Cuomo to Boost Health Plan for Excluded Immigrants

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

New York has a long history of welcoming immigrants and has been a beacon of hope and opportunity for millions of families and young people. Living up to that promise, New York must take action to support millions of young adult immigrants at the center of one of America’s greatest moral debates. While New York has done much to provide affordable health care to its immigrant residents, we still have work to do to expand access to affordable health care options like the Essential Plan, which is New York State’s new affordable health care plan.

That’s why Young Invincibles is calling on Governor Cuomo and the State Assembly to allocate $10.3 million in this year’s budget to immediately bolster the state’s Essential Plan (EP). This investment will extend health coverage to immigrants who are considered to be Permanently Residing Under the Color of Law (PRUCOL), but are excluded from federal health benefits, and whose incomes exceeds a rather low bar of $15,800 per year. The Community Service Society of New York estimates that less than half of the roughly 5,500 eligible immigrant New Yorkers would likely enroll if the state extends coverage through the Essential Plan to this population. This change is expected to help young adult immigrants with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status.

Now that New York state can use federal dollars to provide coverage for “lawfully present” immigrants previously covered by state-funded Medicaid, creating a state savings of about $645 million, the state should use those savings to provide the $10.3 million needed to extend Essential Plan to more New Yorkers.

One in five New York state residents are immigrants and there are more than 800,000 undocumented residents in the state, 45 percent of whom are between the ages of 16 and 34. In fact, 56 percent of all young adults in the New York metropolitan area alone are of foreign birth. Clearly, immigrants are a core part of all New York communities. But lack of equitable access to key health services remains an unfortunate reality for far too many.

Access to quality and affordable health coverage is a matter of equity and can be the difference between life or death. One study by Families USA found that in just one year, more than 1,200 New Yorkers alone died prematurely from not having health insurance—that’s 24 New Yorkers every week.

This is simply unacceptable and it is particularly concerning for young adult immigrants given the glaring health coverage disparities gap that currently exists between young adult immigrants and their older immigrant counterparts. A recent report by Young Invincibles’ New York City office found that the uninsured rate for young adults (18 to 34) legal noncitizens is 27.4 percent, which is 8.5 percent higher than for older (35 years and older) legal non-citizens. Similarly, the uninsured rate for naturalized young adult immigrants is 10.7 percent higher than older populations. The largest disparity exists between young adult foreign-born immigrants and those 35 and older at 36 percent and 18.6 percent, respectively.

Extending the Essential Plan to PRUCOL immigrant New Yorkers is critical to ensure equitable health coverage for all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status—and it’s a no-brainer.

Kevin Stump is Northeast Director of Young Invincibles, which is part of the “Coverage 4 All” campaign led by Make the Road NY and the New York Immigration Coalition.

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