IMMIGRATION: Children’s Insurance Rates Falling Since 1995
The number of uninsured children from immigrant families has risen since 1995, a possible effect of welfare reform as noncitizen parents feel that enrolling their children in public assistance may compromise their immigration status, according to two new studies conducted by the UCLA Center for Health Policy and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The first study profiles the rising number of uninsured children whose parents are immigrants, while the second examines health insurance coverage for undocumented immigrants who became legal immigrants under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1996. The authors found that the number of noncitizen children without insurance rose from 36% in 1995 to 43% in 1997 -- three times the number among children of citizens -- while the uninsured rate for citizen children of noncitizen parents rose from 23% to 27% during the same period -- twice the rate of the children of citizens. During the period, Medicaid coverage fell by more than six percentage points for citizen children of noncitizen and by about 5% for noncitizen children. E. Richard Brown, lead author and director of the UCLA Center, said, "Many immigrant children do not have health insurance because their parents are trapped in low-wage jobs that do not provide health benefits and they are reluctant to enroll their children in Medicaid" for fear of repercussions on their immigration status. "When we deny benefits to adults, what we end up saying is that their children -- even their U.S.-born children who are citizens -- also are going to have less access to these programs." Brown and his colleagues say the finding suggest that the federal government should create another immigration amnesty program to increase access, as well as expand Medicaid to cover more immigrants and increase funding for local "safety nets" that provide for the poor and uninsured. "Increasing aid to the safety net providers would not only benefit immigrants, but would help local communities to prevent disease outbreaks and would subsidize programs that otherwise have to be paid for by local governments," they conclude (UCLA release, 7/14).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.