In 2019,  one quarter of all children nationwide had an immigrant parent. Ensuring these children and their parents have access to quality health care is critical to our nation’s future.

The Biden administration has moved quickly to reverse many harmful immigration policies, but the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic also poses urgent risks for immigrant communities, who are less likely to have health insurance for many reasons, including immigrant eligibility restrictions for subsidized health insurance like Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

We spoke with Jennifer M. Haley and Dulce Gonzalez from the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center to understand how children of immigrants are currently served in health policy, how they’ve been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and how the Biden administration can help alleviate the barriers they face. Haley and Gonzalez offered three takeaways.

  1. Uninsurance rates among children have risen in recent years. After more than two decades of sustained bipartisan effort to increase children’s health insurance coverage by expanding Medicaid/CHIP eligibility, supporting outreach, and simplifying enrollment and renewal processes, the uninsurance rate among children dropped to a historic low of 4.3 percent in 2016.
  2. Public charge effects could keep immigrant families from COVID-19 testing, treatment, and vaccination. With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to spread, particularly impacting the Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities, frequent testing and quickly distributed vaccinations are critical for stemming its advance. Although the federal government communicated that neither testing nor treatment would be considered in public charge determinations, many immigrant families may not have gotten this information or may not believe it.
  3. Policymakers can expand eligibility and streamline safety net enrollment processes to help children in immigrant families. To help bolster the health of children of immigrants, Gonzalez and Haley suggest policymakers look to improve eligibility and enrollment processes for safety net programs. According to Haley, children are more likely to participate in Medicaid and CHIP if their families also participate in other programs like SNAP.

Read the full article about healthcare for immigrant children by Hamutal Bernstein, Cary Lou, and Wesley Jenkins at Urban Institute.