THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Vice President
VICE PRESIDENT GORE TAKES NEW ACTION TO ASSURE FAMILIES ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE AND OTHER BENEFITS New Regulation Clarifies That Receiving Medicaid, CHIP, or 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 Children's 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 nation's 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 new policy.
CLINTON-GORE ADMINISTRATION'S 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 Administration's 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 Administration's 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 Children's 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. ###