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Jayapal introduces bill to extend healthcare to immigrants

Washington, May 13 (IANS) Pramila Jayapal, the first Indian-American woman to serve in the US House of Representatives, has reintroduced a bicameral legislation to grant lawful immigrants eligibility to healthcare programs.

Taking to Twitter on Wednesday, Jayapal announced: “We must finally guarantee healthcare to everyone as a human right, regardless of immigration status, income, employment, or anything else.

“That’s why I’m proud to be introducing the HEAL (Health Equity and Access under Law) Act, a first step towards removing barriers to health care for immigrants.”

Calling herself “a proud immigrant who came to America when I was 16”, Jayapal said that “this is an urgent and necessary first step to eliminating barriers to healthcare and ensuring immigrants get the care they need”.

According to a statement by Jayapal’s office, the proposal, co-sponsored by more than 80 members of Congress and endorsed by hundreds of organisations, is being introduced “amidst a devastating public health crisis in which over two-thirds of the undocumented population are working on the frontlines of the Covid-19 pandemic”.

The HEAL Act ensures critical access to Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) by lifting the current five-year period that lawfully present immigrants, including children, are required to wait before being able to enrol in these health care programs, the statement said.

“The bill also provides access to public and affordable health coverage for DACA recipients and removes the current restrictions that prevent undocumented immigrants from purchasing care through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace while ensuring these individuals are able to obtain premium-tax credits and cost-sharing reductions.”

Immigrants represent a substantial part of America’s essential workforce with at least 23 million of them making up one in five individuals in the essential workforce.

Additionally, over two-thirds of the undocumented population are working on the frontlines of the pandemic.

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