Planned Parenthood believes all people should have access to quality, affordable health care — regardless of income, insurance status, or citizenship. For nearly one hundred years, Planned Parenthood has provided high-quality, confidential, nonjudgmental health care to women, men and young people across the country. As a health care provider, we are invested in ensuring that all individuals have access to health care, including reproductive health care such as family planning services like birth control. We all benefit when more people have access to affordable, quality health care.
We support the efforts that Congress is undertaking to reform our immigration system, and believe that immigration reform legislation should ensure that immigrants, including immigrants that will gain provisional status, have access to comprehensive health care.
It is important to remember that some individuals and families have been left out of the expanded coverage granted by the Affordable Care Act. Currently, undocumented individuals are prohibited from purchasing health insurance in state marketplaces — even at full cost out of their own pocket.
Access to health care is sound health and fiscal policy. People who have access to health care are more likely to have better health outcomes and fewer chronic conditions, ultimately leading to lower future health care costs. Furthermore, providing affordable coverage to low-income individuals and families will help save taxpayer dollars, especially when you consider that every dollar invested in publicly funded family planning serves saves nearly $4 for American families.
The Affordable Care Act is a great step forward in improving health care access. Women, in particular, benefit under health care reform, as the law prohibits plans from charging women more money for their health coverage and requires new plans to provide preventive health services (such as birth control and well-woman exams) without co-pays. As it stands though, immigrants (particularly undocumented immigrants) face tremendous barriers to health care access compared to citizens. Here are the facts:
- Only certain lawfully present immigrants (e.g., “green card” holders, refugees) are eligible for federal health benefits. Under current federal law, undocumented immigrants are ineligible for non-emergency Medicaid coverage and cannot access health insurance through an ACA state Marketplace, even at full cost with their own money.
- Because many immigrant women do not have employer-based health insurance and are unable to access public health programs, they are less likely to access preventive health care, such as Pap tests, STD screenings, and birth control than U.S. women.
- Lack of access to health care, including preventive health care, contributes to poorer health outcomes. For example, Asian and Pacific Islander immigrant women have high rates of cervical cancer, and more than half of all pregnancies among Latina women are unintended.
- Lack of health insurance and high out-of-pocket costs are cited as major factors limiting immigrant women’s access to preventive health care, including reproductive health care.
- Low-income immigrant women have especially high rates of uninsurance. Sixty percent of low-income, non-citizen immigrant women of reproductive age lack health insurance, which is nearly twice the proportion of low-income, U.S.-born women.
As Congress moves forward with the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, it is essential that any reform ensure health care access for all immigrants.
While the bill is an important first step in ensuring greater equality for immigrant communities by creating a pathway to citizenship for millions of hardworking immigrant families, it falls short when it comes to health care. The bill excludes aspiring citizens from immediate access to federal health care benefits, such as Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, despite the fact that most Americans believe that immigrants on the pathway to citizenship should be able to access Medicaid (63 percent) and subsidies to affordably buy insurance on the Marketplaces (59 percent). Under the bill, the vast majority of aspiring citizens that do not naturalize will be ineligible for non-emergency Medicaid coverage for 15 years and will not be able to access subsidies to affordably buy insurance on the Marketplaces for 10 years. This is too long to wait for health care.
Planned Parenthood will continue to advocate for quality, comprehensive coverage for all so that everyone, regardless of where they are from, can access the services they need — no matter what.