NEW YORK (PIX11) – Immigrant rights advocates headed to Albany last Wednesday to march in front of the state’s capitol building.
They want Gov. Kathy Hochul to include immigrants in a federal waiver request that would expand health care coverage for all, regardless of immigration status.
“This legislation would allow the state to expand our essential plan to undocumented New Yorkers. There [are] over 245,000 New Yorkers who are undocumented and don’t have health care coverage,” said Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas, who is the co-sponsor of the bill. “This change would ensure that we are fighting for a healthy future for all.”
González-Rojas joined a slew of advocates and lawmakers who are pushing for the measure to pass. Right now, only undocumented immigrants who live in New York City have access to health care coverage, via the New York City Cares Program. The change would extend the benefit across the state.
“Think about our farmers, our neighbors in Yonkers, Rochester. They currently don’t qualify for the benefit,” said González-Rojas.
Many immigration advocates echo González-Rojas’s concerns. According to a survey conducted by the non-partisan research firm Perry Undem, eight in 10 New Yorkers say they support health care coverage for immigrants. The poll also showed unprecedented partisan support from the state’s Democrats and Republicans.
As far as budgeting, the move would not cost anything to New Yorkers. “The state can use federal funding to pay for this expansion. There is currently a trust fund that exists for the essential plan,” said immigrant rights advocate Arline Cruz, with the nonprofit Make the Road NY. “This trust fund has a surplus of $2 billion that is just sitting there. We could use that funding to pay for the coverage.”
Hochul also referred to the same plan in April of 2022, saying the state would try to expand health care coverage for undocumented New Yorkers under the essential plan, which currently prevents the immigrants from using such a benefit due to federal law.
The federal waiver would allow the state to use federal dollars to pay for the added coverage, following in the footsteps of states like Colorado and Washington.
State officials want to hear from New Yorkers on the issue. There is currently a 30-day public comment period, which remains open on the state’s government website until March 11.