Senate Proposed Health Care Bill Would Harm Immigrants

June 23, 2017
Sophie Vodvarka
Communications Coordinator
(773) 294-4909

Yesterday, the US Senate released a draft health care bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act.  This bill would like inflict as much harm as the American Health Care Act, the bill that the US House passed last month, while also specifically attacking immigrant communities. Both bills affect everyone no matter what type of health insurance they have: Medicare, Medicaid, employer coverage, or a plan on the individual market.

Currently, many immigrants are able to buy insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or enroll in Medicaid (if they are low income and either have become naturalized citizens or have had a green card for at least 5 years). Nationally, the ACA enabled many immigrants to receive health insurance, lowering the uninsured rate “by a quarter between 2013 and 2015.”

“These cuts are critical, to those who are on Medicaid and for many others. Medicaid covers important resources like home health care which, for people like me who use a wheelchair, are crucial to allowing us to do our work and live our lives. I am a organizer for people with disabilities and if I didn’t have access to health care, I wouldn't be able to take care of my community,” said Michelle Garcia, Latino Community Organizer with Access Living, a member organization of Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

The Senate bill would restrict access to tax credits and to enrollment through ACA-created marketplaces, limiting eligibility to “qualified immigrants” instead of lawfully present immigrants. This change would take away coverage from:

  • Survivors of serious crimes who are cooperating with law enforcement to prosecute the perpetrators;        

  • Individuals who have fled torture or persecution, or otherwise can’t return to their home countries, who are authorized to live and work lawfully in the US but don’t have or don’t yet have one of the “qualified” statuses; and         

  • Immediate family members of US citizens who are authorized to live and work in the US but don’t yet have their green card.

The Senate bill also makes more drastic cuts to the Medicaid program and, like the House bill, would end Medicaid expansion by 2024. This loss of Medicaid funding will have a profoundly negative impact in Illinois’ hospitals over the next 10 years.

The Senate bill includes other harmful provisions, including:

  • allowing states to not offer basic benefits such as hospital visits and maternity care

  • decreasing financial assistance for low income families

  • allowing insurers to charge older adults as much as five times more than a young adult for health insurance premiums.

The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights calls for our members to contact your member of Congress and demand that they publicly oppose the American Health Care Act and call Gov. Rauner and demand that he publicly oppose the both health bills, which will cost Illinois billions of dollars in Medicaid funding and thousands of jobs.