By Heather Kopal, Seth Hartig and Soma City
For children to thrive, they need and deserve high-quality health care. Regular doctor visits keep children on schedule to get their vaccinations, help identify developmental delays, and detect asthma and other chronic conditions. Unfortunately, children in families without health insurance often do not have access to this care.
It is especially difficult for families of undocumented immigrant children living in New Jersey to obtain care because they do not qualify for public health insurance through Medicaid and CHIP.
New Jersey is taking initial steps to make all children eligible for public health insurance, regardless of their immigration status, through the state’s Cover All Kids program. The Phil Murphy government’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year would allocate $11 million to expand eligibility for the program. However, coverage will not start until January 2023.
Undocumented immigrants are part of New Jersey’s strength in diversity. Overwhelmingly unregistered New Jersey residents work, work hard and contribute close to them 600 million dollars In state and local taxes and more Billion dollars in federal taxes that finance public health care and insurance programs.
But, due to their immigration status, they are not allowed to purchase coverage from the health care market in the Affordable Care Act. Therefore, today, the only way for undocumented immigrants to obtain health insurance in New Jersey is if an employer provides it. However, many work in low-paying jobs that do not offer health coverage.
across the country, 42% of undocumented immigrants do not have health insurance, compared to only 8% Citizens of the United States. in New Jersey, about 800,000 (33%) US citizen children receive their health insurance through Medicaid or CHIP, while children who are not currently enrolled are prohibited from receiving this insurance.
six states It currently provides state-funded health care coverage to all income-eligible children regardless of immigration status. An analysis using the National Center for Children in Poverty was recently launched Family Resource Simulator Shows how extending Medicaid/CHIP eligibility to undocumented immigrant children benefits them as well as their families’ health and financial well-being.
The simulator calculates a household’s net resources over a range of earning levels. Resources include earnings, tax credits, and public benefits minus basic family expenses such as child care, food, medical costs, rent, and taxes paid.
In New Jersey, undocumented immigrant children cannot receive assistance from several major public support programs, including the Federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as Food Stamps), Temporary Assistance for Families in Need (often referred to as “Care”) or Stamps Housing, childcare benefits, or utility assistance.
This leaves their families far worse than other families struggling to make ends meet. For example, a family of two parents/children of US citizens who live in poverty is eligible for assistance that helps pay for food, housing, childcare, phone bills, utilities, and health insurance. They are also eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. None of this help brings a luxurious existence. It just helps families get by.
Based on our simulator analysis, expanding access to CHIP/Medicaid for unenrolled children would reduce out-of-pocket medical expenses by $1,690 per year for a family living at the poverty line with two children, and up to $3,000 for a family above the poverty line.
The ability to enroll in Medicaid/CHIP will eliminate a significant barrier to health care for these children. It will also save government money. Today, the health care that many of these children get in hospital emergency rooms for which the state pays high rates — in other words, the taxpayers — is likely to come.
It makes health and financial sense to offer preventive care on the front end, rather than limiting care to emergency or charitable care.
Today, many children from neighbors, friends and relatives are unable to obtain this essential care at a time – thanks to the ongoing pandemic – even going to school is dangerous to their health. This is especially important for children under five who do not have the option of protection with the COVID-19 vaccine.
Having the health care that other children get will enable them to participate fully in school, the community and, ultimately, the workplace. These kids deserve nothing less. Making these children now eligible for the provisions set out in the Cover All Kids legislation is the right thing to do.
Seth Hartig is a senior research associate at NCCP.
Soma Seti is a senior political analyst at Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP).
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