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Health & Wellness

Advocates rally for health care regardless of immigration status

Masked advocates holding a blue and gold banner saying, "NY NEEDS #COVERAGE4ALL" and a black, white and gold banner saying, "LA COLMENA" and its logo.
New York NOW
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Advocates rallied in Albany Wednesday for the "Coverage for All" measure being considered by the state legislature.

Activists with the New York State Immigration Coalition gathered with dozens of supporters in Albany Wednesday, to call on the legislature to pass a health care bill known as “Coverage For All.” The bill would allow an undocumented person to enroll in New York’s “Essential Plan” if they qualify.

The Essential Plan is a low-cost option under New York State’s health care marketplace that doesn’t have a monthly premium. The bill’s justification states that it would expand coverage to 400,000 people who currently don’t qualify due to their immigration status.

Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the New York State Immigration Coalition, said immigrants from all occupations are essential to day-to-day operations in the state and should be respected as such.

“Our budget is a moral document. It shares what our values are,” Awawdeh said. “We cannot continue to have our community, who is on the front lines fighting back COVID, on the front lines of keeping our state going, excluded from health care.”

Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, a Democrat from Manhattan, sponsors that bill. He said the budget has a large surplus this year, which makes it a good time to change the law.

“It’s absolutely crucial that both Coverage For All and Fair Pay for Home Care be in the budget because they both cost a lot of money. There’s no hiding that fact and if it’s not in the budget, then it’s not going to happen this year,” Gottfried said.

Fair Pay for Home Care is a separate bill that Gottfried also sponsors. The measure raises the minimum wage for home health care workers to 150% of the minimum wage an area.

When it comes to resistance for health care expansion, Gottfried said one of the main points of resistance has been the cost.

“The resistance is simply a matter of money,” he said. “We have a large surplus in this year’s budget, but that means there are a lot of people demanding more money for everything under the sun. So it’s a question of priorities.”

Gottfreid said the ultimate goal for health care is the passage of the New York Health Act, but he's looking to take incremental steps in the meantime.

In the Assembly, the Coverage for All bill currently sits in the Ways and Means Committee, and in the Senate, it’s in the Finance Committee. The state budget is due on April 1.