THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Vice President
Embargoed for Publication or Broadcast until 3:00 pm (EDT)
Tuesday, May 25, 1999
VICE PRESIDENT GORE TAKES NEW ACTION TO
ASSURE FAMILIES ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE AND OTHER BENEFITS
New Regulation Clarifies That Receiving Medicaid,
Other Benefits Will Not Affect Immigration Status
McAllen, TX -- Vice President Gore announced today a new
Department of Justice regulation to assure families that enrolling in
Medicaid or the new Childrens Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and
receiving other critical benefits, such as school lunch and child care
services, will not affect their immigration status.
The new policy, effective immediately, clarifies a widespread misconception
that has deterred eligible populations from enrolling in these programs
and undermined the nations public health. In addition, the Vice
President directed Federal agencies to send guidance to their field offices,
program grantees and to work with community organizations to educate Americans
about this new policy.
"This new regulation will improve the health of our families by
addressing widespread confusion that prevents legal immigrants from signing
up for health insurance, school lunch, child care and other essential
programs," said Vice President Gore.
WIDESPREAD CONFUSION ABOUT CURRENT POLICY
DETERS LEGAL IMMIGRANTS FROM ACCESSING
CRITICAL BENEFITS THEY ARE ELIGIBLE FOR
Recent immigration and welfare reform laws have generated widespread
public confusion about whether legal immigrants receiving certain publicly
funded benefits can be deemed to be a "public charge," meaning
they may be denied the ability to become a legal permanent resident and
subject to deportation. This confusion and fear has deterred legal immigrant
families from enrolling their children in Medicaid and CHIP, and prevented
legal immigrants from receiving immunization and treatment for communicable
diseases, which places the entire national public health at risk. It also
reduces payment sources for hospitals and other health care providers
serving this population, thus increasing their uncompensated care burden.
A 1998 Urban Institute study found that in Los Angeles County the rate
of legal immigrants applying for health insurance dropped by 21 percent
from January 1996 to January 1998, suggesting that legal immigrants do
not take full advantage of their eligibility for currently available programs.
NEW STEPS ENSURE THAT LEGAL IMMIGRANTS WILL HAVE ACCESS TO CRITICAL HEALTH
CARE AND SOCIAL SERVICES WITHOUT FEAR.
These new regulations provide clear and consistent guidance that health
care and other critical services cannot be used to deny individuals admission
to the United States or to bar legal permanent resident status, or as
a basis for deportation. Eligible legal immigrants can now receive the
following benefits without fear of jeopardizing their immigration status:
- Health insurance under Medicaid and CHIP. There have been reports
of individuals being told that receiving Medicaid or CHIP will negatively
effect their immigration status leading to widespread concern in the
immigrant community about enrolling in Medicaid or CHIP, even where
the beneficiary is a child who is a United States citizen. These new
regulations take a significant step towards eliminating that concern
by clarifying that legal immigrants are eligible for these programs
(with the exception of institutionalization for long term care) will
not face adverse immigration consequences.
- Access to immunization, testing, and treatment for communicable
disease. After an outbreak of rubella in New York in 1997, public
health officials learned that the major reason that people had not been
vaccinated was the fear that using health department services would
affect their immigration status. These new regulations take new steps
to protect the health of all Americans by ensuring legal immigrants
can access without fear free immunizations, testing, and
treatment for communicable diseases, such as rubella or tuberculosis.
- Access to essential nutrition programs. These new regulations
remove the perceived barriers to receiving critical nutrition benefits,
including Food Stamps, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for
Women, Infants and Children (WIC), the National School Lunch and Breakfast
programs, and other supplementary and emergency food assistance programs.
Access to these benefits is extremely important for legal immigrant
children. Recent studies by the United States Department of Agriculture
(USDA) and the Census Bureau indicate that Hispanic families with children
have among the lowest food security rates (70 percent), placing them
at risk for malnutrition.
- Other supports for families. These regulations also make it
possible for eligible legal immigrants to also access important social
supports for working families, such as child care services, housing
assistance, energy assistance, emergency disaster relief, foster care
and adoption assistance, transportation vouchers, educational assistance,
and job training programs without fear of adverse immigration consequences.
The Vice President also directed all Federal agencies that oversee these
programs, including the Department of Health and Human Services, USDA,
the Department of Justice, the Social Security Administration, and the
State Department, to send guidance to their field offices, program grantees
and to work with community organizations to educate Americans about this
CLINTON-GORE ADMINISTRATIONS STRONG COMMITMENT TO INSURING LOW
INCOME FAMILIES AND PROMOTING THE PUBLIC HEALTH.
The new regulations the Vice President unveiled today are part of a comprehensive
effort by the Clinton/Gore Administration to help families obtain health
care, which includes:
- Providing health insurance to legal immigrant children, pregnant
women, and individuals with disabilities. The Administrations
budget proposes to provide health coverage to low-income legal immigrant
children and pregnant women who entered the country after August 22,
1996 and to legal immigrants who entered the country after August 22,
1996 and became disabled after entering the country, providing health
insurance for over 100,000 legal immigrants. This builds on the Administrations
success in restoring eligibility for Medicaid, SSI, and Food Stamps
to hundreds of thousands of legal immigrants including restoring disability
and health benefits to 380,000 legal immigrants in the Balanced Budget
Act and providing Food Stamps for 225,000 legal immigrant children,
senior citizens, and people with disabilities in the Agricultural Research
Act of 1998
- Launching the Childrens Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
The President, with bipartisan support from the Congress, created CHIP,
which allocates $24 billion over five years to extend health care coverage
to uninsured children through State-designed programs. He also launched
the Insure Kids Now Campaign, which engages a broad-based, bipartisan,
public-private coalition to use a variety of means to educate and assist
families in insuring their children. This campaign specifically designed
for minority populations and encourages outreach to children in non-traditional
settings, such as churches and community centers, where legal immigrant
children are frequently found.
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