Access Denied: Immigrant Women and the Affordable Care Act

Taken from the July/August 2014 issue of The Women's Health Activist Newsletter.

The National Women’s Health Network (NHWN) is making sure that women have the access, information, and political power to be active participants in our own health care. But, we have a long way to go before ALL women are supported by the new health care law! Did you know that many immigrant women and their children must wait five years before they can enroll in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) — even if they are here legally and cannot otherwise afford the care they need? Or that young immigrant women who get legal status through the U.S. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program are barred from enrolling in Medicaid or even buying insurance plans offered on the Health Insurance Marketplaces

Without access to affordable coverage, immigrant women are often unable to get the health care they need to stay healthy, like cervical cancer screenings, contraceptive counseling and services, and prenatal and maternity care. Can you imagine living, working, or going to school legally in the United States but being locked out of basic affordable health care coverage? And denied the ability to make your own decisions about your health and overall wellbeing?

To combat this problem, Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) has introduced the Health Equity and Access under the Law for Immigrant Women & Families Act (known as the HEAL Act), which removes barriers to affordable health care for immigrant women and families who are authorized to live and work in the United States. The bill would allow immigrant women to participate in the Marketplaces and other healthcare programs that their tax dollars support.

We are fed up with restrictions that deny women the essential and affordable healthcare coverage! Through our Raising Women’s Voices for the Health Care We Need campaign, the NWHN is supporting the HEAL Act’s efforts to expand access to comprehensive health care to every woman in this country. Thanks to your support, the NWHN is opposing attacks on women’s health coverage and working to ensure that every woman can make her own decision about her health needs. If you want to fight barriers that restrict immigrant women’s access to care, contact your Members of Congress and ask them to co-sponsor the HEAL Act. Let’s stand up for the health of all women and add immigrant women’s access to the list of historic health care victories we can celebrate!

If you have questions on how to help the HEAL Act, please contact [email protected].

Lillian Hewko is a NWHN Program Coordinator and Reproductive Justice Legal Fellow (LSRJ)