U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and U.S. Representatives Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) and Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) on Tuesday, led 10 Senate and 37 House Democratic colleagues in urging the Biden Administration to ensure undocumented immigrants across the country can receive Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) testing, treatment, and vaccinations at no cost through emergency Medicaid. In a letter to Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Xavier Becerra and Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Liz Richter, the lawmakers requested CMS issue necessary guidance clarifying that emergency Medicaid — which helps ensure undocumented individuals without health coverage can receive access to critical care — can provide coverage of COVID-19-related care.
“In light of President Biden’s focus on equity in response to the pandemic, we hope that you will move swiftly to ensure that all individuals can receive COVID-19 care, without worrying how they will pay for it,” wrote Bennet, Cárdenas, Sánchez, and their colleagues in the letter.
Despite nearly half of undocumented immigrants lacking health insurance, immigrants have served on the COVID-19 frontlines, with over two-thirds of undocumented workers serving in essential jobs.
“There are nearly 11 million individuals in the United States who are undocumented and hundreds of thousands of others who are lawfully present but ineligible for Medicaid because of their immigration status. Nearly a quarter of lawfully present immigrants and almost half of undocumented immigrants are uninsured. Throughout the pandemic, immigrants have served on the frontlines, with more than two-thirds of undocumented immigrant workers holding jobs deemed essential to the recovery and fight against COVID-19,” explained the lawmakers. “Workers have been more likely to contract COVID-19 because they provide these essential services. In addition to their workforce contributions, undocumented workers strengthen our economy through the taxes they pay and their spending, including over $120 billion in federal, state, and local tax contributions.”
“Throughout the pandemic, immigrants have served on the frontlines, with more than two-thirds of undocumented immigrant workers holding jobs deemed essential to the recovery and fight against COVID-19.”
While the American Rescue Plan Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law last week, secured COVID-19 related coverage for uninsured Americans under Medicaid, the lawmakers stressed the need to clarify the application of the mandate to emergency Medicaid.
“Providing clarity about access to care for patients and reimbursement for providers is more important than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic,” continued the lawmakers. “Emergency Medicaid ensures that these individuals are not burdened with insurmountable bills and that the providers who treat them are not faced with uncompensated care costs.”
“We appreciate the administration’s efforts to center equity in your COVID-19 response and urge you to directly include immigrants in that response effort by issuing this clarification,” they concluded.
The text of the letter is available here.
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