Center for American Progress

STATEMENT: The Truth about Immigrants and the SCHIP Debate
Press Statement

STATEMENT: The Truth about Immigrants and the SCHIP Debate

By Meredith L. King

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Washington, D.C. – Before Congress recessed in early August, both the Senate and the House of Representatives passed legislation that would reauthorize the highly successful State Children’s Health Insurance Program, a program that provides health coverage to millions of low-income children. Hardline conservatives in the administration and Congress failed to defeat this progressive legislation, yet they are now falsely claiming that the House bill will allow undocumented immigrants access to public health insurance at the expense of tax paying citizens.

For example, a statement issued by the Executive Office of the President reads in part:

“The administration is particularly concerned that the … dramatic liberalization of the citizenship documentation requirements would result in unacceptable increases in coverage under SCHIP for individuals who are currently not eligible for the program.” (Statement, Executive Office of the President, 8/1/07)

And the National Republic Congressional Committee issued this statement:

“Because of the Democrats’ votes [for SCHIP], they are supporting cuts to Medicare and taxpayer-funded benefits for illegal immigrants.”(National Republican Congressional Committee, Washington Times, 8/15/07)

Conservatives are once again spreading false rhetoric about undocumented immigrants and public health insurance in the hopes of bolstering public sentiment against the House’s proposal for SCHIP reauthorization.

The bill positively does not remove the existing restrictions on undocumented immigrants’ access to Medicaid or SCHIP coverage. Undocumented immigrants are and will remain ineligible.

Clearly, facts are needed to ensure an objective and honest debate takes place. What the bill would actually accomplish is the following:

· Increase health coverage for low-income white and African-American children who have been most harmed by the 2006 proof-of-citizenship documentation requirement.

· Allow SCHIP or Medicaid coverage for legal documented immigrant children and pregnant women during their first five years in residence.

The reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program is the first step in fixing our broken health care system. The program ensures that millions of low-income children have health care coverage and access to timely and needed medical services. It is unacceptable that elected officials are misleading the public for political gain.

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