Insider NJ

NJPP Report: More Hispanic And Asian Children Uninsured Likely Due To Chilling Effect

Insider NJ — October 28, 2019

TRENTON, NJ — Thousands of legal immigrants and citizens in mixed status households are dropping out of or not applying for public health coverage likely due to federal policies that penalize immigrants, according to a new report by New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP). The report, released days before the Open Enrollment period begins for 2020, finds that the Trump administration's "public charge" rule change is the likely cause for a steep increase in uninsured Hispanic and Asian children in the Garden State.

"Last year, there was a major concern that the Trump administration's proposed public charge rule change would discourage legal immigrants from applying for essential public benefits," said Raymond Castro, report author and Director of Health Policy at NJPP. "This report provides hard data that supports those fears. The difference between citizens and immigrants enrolled in NJ FamilyCare is startling, and it's children who are bearing the brunt of punitive federal policies. New Jersey does not have control over federal immigration policy, but it should enact state laws that will mitigate the fear caused by the Trump administration and make it more likely that immigrants will apply for the health coverage they desperately need."

The report, More Hispanic and Asian Children Uninsured Likely Due to Chilling Effect, finds that the number of uninsured Hispanic and Asian children in New Jersey increased by 2,621 from 2017 to 2018, while the number of uninsured White and Black children decreased by 3,591 over the same time period. The report also finds that child enrollment in NJ FamilyCare dropped by 30,000 in 2018—bringing child enrollment to a five-year low—and continues to drop in 2019.

"The public charge rule change is part of a broader agenda to create an "invisible wall" for immigrants," said Erika Nava, Policy Analyst at NJPP. "Policies that make it harder for immigrants with low to moderate incomes to navigate the immigration system, as well as new restrictions in basic needs programs, make it harder for families to thrive and live with dignity. This report is important as it documents the very real chilling effect of Trump's anti-immigrant agenda."

The NJPP report recommends New Jersey take proactive steps to insure all kids—regardless of where they were born. Recommendations include: making all children, regardless of immigration status, eligible for NJ FamilyCare, and allocating outreach funding to organizations that have the trust of immigrants.

"Despite proposed changes by the Trump administration, only a very, very small percentage of people would be affected by the public charge rule change, and getting a health plan through the ACA marketplace is often much more affordable than people think," said Laura Waddell, Health Care Organizer with New Jersey Citizen Action. "On November 1st, this year's open enrollment the Affordable Care Act marketplace will begin. New Jersey residents can apply for health insurance and financial assistance to help get the coverage they need. But as you can tell from the report and the numbers we just cited, much more needs to be done with regards to outreach and enrollment for vulnerable populations in our state. We join NJPP in calling on our elected officials to ensure all children are eligible for New Jersey Family Care and for funding and resources to be allocated to community based organizations to ensure adequate outreach to our immigrant populations. "

The Open Enrollment period for 2020 begins on November 1, 2020.

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