HEALTHY FAMILIES: State Entreats INS To Clarify Policy
For the seventh time since last May, state health officials yesterday requested that the Immigration and Naturalization Service clarify its public charge policy. In a letter to INS Commissioner Doris Meissner, State Health Director Kim Belshe and Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board Chair Cliff Allenby implored the INS to immediately explain whether alien parents who sign up their alien children for Healthy Families will incur a public charge. The INS has said that alien parents who enroll their citizen children will not be punished, but it has so far been silent about alien children. "We have heard consistently and clearly that some parents will not enroll their children in the Healthy Families Program for fear that the insurance benefits would be considered a public charge against them by the INS. ... [W]e must have a clear, unambiguous response from the INS so that we can quell the fears of parents who want to provide health care for their children," Allenby said. Belshe expressed concern about the six-month hold-up which she contends has stunted Healthy Families enrollment. "I firmly believe that the single largest outstanding barrier to enrollment of children is the federal immigration policy," she said. Belshe noted that the program recently streamlined its application and deployed outreach workers to boost enrollment. But because 79% of the eligible children are minorities and many children live in families where one or both parents are immigrants, the INS policy is of particular concern for recruitment, according to Belshe (California Department of Health Services release, 12/8). Click here for recent CHL coverage of Healthy Families' enrollment efforts.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.