Un­doc­u­mented par­ents fear en­rolling their U.S.-born chil­dren for in­sur­ance

ICE ar­rested 75,045 un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants from Jan­uary to June of 2017. Of those, 19,752 or 26% were clas­si­fied as non-crim­i­nals.

Modern Healthcare - - NEWS - By Vir­gil Dick­son

The Na­tional Im­mi­gra­tion Law Cen­ter is hear­ing more sto­ries of un­doc­u­mented ci­ti­zens skip­ping med­i­cal ap­point­ments or not sign­ing up their U.S.-born chil­dren for health­care cov­er­age over con­cerns they’ll be de­ported.

“When you are hear­ing sto­ries of peo­ple be­ing picked up off the street, it has cre­ated a level of fear that wasn’t there be­fore,” said Al­varo Huerta, a staff at­tor­ney at the cen­ter.

Huerta is re­fer­ring to the rise in ar­rests of peo­ple liv­ing in the U.S. il­le­gally. There was a 40% in­crease in the num­ber of ar­rests made in the first six months of this year, com­pared with the same pe­riod last year, ac­cord­ing to data from U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment.

ICE ar­rested 75,045 un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants from Jan­uary to June of 2017. Of those, 19,752 or 26% were clas­si­fied as non-crim­i­nals. In the same pe­riod for 2016 un­der the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, ICE made 54,683 ar­rests, of which 15%, or 8,053, were non­crim­i­nal.

Chil­dren Now, a non­par­ti­san re­search firm, ear­lier this year said that a sur­vey of un­doc­u­mented res­i­dents in Cal­i­for­nia re­ported re­luc­tance in shar­ing in­for­ma­tion, de­creases in the num­ber of child health ap­point­ments and a bump in the num­ber of no-show ap­point­ments.

If con­tin­ued, those ac­tions could have huge ram­i­fi­ca­tions. About 11 mil­lion un­doc­u­mented peo­ple live in the U.S. and an es­ti­mated 80% of their chil­dren are Amer­i­can ci­ti­zens.

A fed­eral ad­vi­sory panel that in­cludes providers has asked the CMS to is­sue guid­ance or outreach ma­te­ri­als as­sur­ing un­doc­u­mented par­ents of U.S.-born chil- dren that they can sign their kids up for Med­i­caid or CHIP with­out fear of that in­for­ma­tion flag­ging them for de­por­ta­tion.

Ear­lier this year, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump drafted an ex­ec­u­tive or­der that de­clared the Pri­vacy Act, a fed­eral law that pro­tects in­di­vid­u­als’ in­for­ma­tion in govern­ment data­bases, ap­plies only to U.S. ci­ti­zens and law­ful per­ma­nent res­i­dents. Trump has yet to sign the or­der.

At­tor­neys cau­tioned that in­for­ma­tion sub­mit­ted on Med­i­caid and CHIP ap­pli­ca­tions is used only to de­ter­mine el­i­gi­bil­ity for the pro­gram, but the or­der still had a chilling ef­fect.

Last month, HHS’ Ad­vi­sory Panel on Outreach and Ed­u­ca­tion said the cur­rent in­creased at­ten­tion around im­mi­gra­tion could help outreach ef­forts. “We had cre­ated doc­u­ments, re­sources and hand­outs for fam­i­lies, but that has been put on hold for the time be­ing,” said Jes­sica Beau­chemin, who works in the strate­gic mar­ket­ing group in the CMS’ of­fice of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, at one of the panel’s meet­ings. She did not say why the ef­fort was halted.

A CMS spokes­woman de- clined com­ment on the ef­fort and said the agency doesn’t gather data on how many U.S.-born chil­dren with un­doc­u­mented par­ents are on Med­i­caid or CHIP.

Beau­chemin noted that the CMS reg­u­larly sched­ules en­roll­ment outreach for all el­i­gi­ble chil­dren. She cited two we­bi­nars—one that took place late in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion aimed at in­creas­ing en­roll­ment in His­panic com­mu­ni­ties and one that took place back in Jan­uary aimed at en­cour­ag­ing en­roll­ment for multi-gen­er­a­tional fam­i­lies. Nei­ther ap­peared to specif­i­cally tar­get un­doc­u­mented par­ents.

It may be too late to re­as­sure the skit­tish pop­u­la­tion, said Nadereh Pourat, a UCLA pro­fes­sor who stud­ies the use of health ser­vices among the un­doc­u­mented. Af­ter the ar­rests ear­lier this year of Os­car and Irma Sanchez, an un­doc­u­mented cou­ple de­tained at a Texas hospi­tal af­ter ad­mit­ting their baby for emer­gency surgery, many worry about seek­ing med­i­cal care with­out fac­ing de­por­ta­tion.

“You can­not place ICE agents in hospi­tals or other places where peo­ple are likely to re­quest ben­e­fits for emer­gen­cies and then as­sure peo­ple they are safe to ap­ply for cit­i­zen chil­dren,” Pourat said.

A spokesper­son for Cus­toms and Border Pro­tec­tion told NPR that agents are re­quired to mon­i­tor sub­jects in cus­tody “at all times” and tried to do so at the hospi­tal “in the least re­stric­tive man­ner pos­si­ble.”

AP PHOTO

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