Wednesday, January 21, 2009

House Passes Bill that Includes Health Coverage for Immigrant Children and Pregnant Women

The Washington Post
recently reported that the House passed a health care bill that includes an expansion of health care coverage to impoverished legal immigrant children and pregnant women. Currently, legal immigrants must be residents of the US for at least 5 years before they can apply for any form of public assistance. The bill, an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), would qualify over 4 million children for coverage. The 289-139 vote shows clear support for the legislation. A slightly altered form of the bill has been vetoed twice by former President George Bush. President Obama’s strong support of this important legislation will hopefully provide the impetus needed to see the bill through to completion.

If approved by the Senate, this bill will provide much needed care to pregnant women and children of families whose incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid. However, opponents of the bill argue that the US cannot afford the cost of expanding health care to individuals who promised to live in the US without taking such assistance.

While the $33 billion necessary to sustain the program for 4 ½ years certainly is not something to take lightly, the majority of the revenue will come from the 61-cent cigarette tax increase that is a provision of the bill. With cost out of the way, the real question becomes whether or not America wants to provide health care to a significant group of people in need of coverage. While every American has the right to take their own stance on immigrant affairs, access to affordable health care is a fundamental right that should not be denied.

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