Hundreds Of Immigrant Advocates March To State Capitol Demanding Lawmakers Pass Health Coverage For All

March 2, 2022

Today, the Coverage for All coalition, alongside elected officials and impacted individuals, rallied at the State Capitol in Albany to demand the inclusion of the Coverage for All bill in the upcoming state budget.

Uninsured immigrants who would be eligible for health coverage under the legislation shared their struggles to access medical care before and during the pandemic. Following the presser, ralliers marched throughout the Capitol, ending with a die-in along the Capitol Concourse and an outdoor vigil to mourn the deadly toll COVID-19 took on immigrant New Yorkers, and how the ongoing lack of healthcare access leaves them still vulnerable to the worst of the pandemic. Immigrant New Yorkers have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, dying at twice the rate of white New Yorkers since the pandemic began.

Today’s action comes less than a month before state lawmakers must finalize the FY2023 budget and follows a series of activations in February by immigrant communities in Harlem, Long Island, Midtown and Westchester.

Last month, the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) launched an ad campaign across TV and digital platforms in response to Gov. Kathy Hochul leaving out healthcare for immigrant New Yorkers from her executive budget proposal. The Coverage for All coalition, New York Health Plan Association (NYHPA), NYS Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans also unveiled billboards near the State Capitol and in Westchester earlier this week, demanding the immediate expansion of health insurance coverage for all New Yorkers. These billboards remind our state legislature that over 150,000 low-income New Yorkers are currently barred from health insurance due to their immigration status.

The Coverage For All bill would create a state-funded health coverage option for New Yorkers with income up to 200% of the federal poverty line regardless of immigration status. Both versions of the Coverage For All bill(A880A/S1572A) were moved out of each legislative houses’ Health committee.

“It is imperative that every New Yorker have access to affordable health insurance regardless of their immigration status. Despite being at the frontlines of this pandemic, thousands of low-income immigrant New Yorkers still struggle with the effects of the pandemic and are unable to access comprehensive care, which Albany got a small glimpse of today. The Governor, Senate and Assembly can end this cruel disparity in healthcare access by including Coverage for All in the budget. Today’s demonstration shows how essential it is that all New Yorkers and their families have the opportunity to stay healthy, strong and safe,” said Murad Awawdeh, Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition.

“Without health insurance and living with various health conditions caused by Covid-19, I am not able to access all the necessary care and medications I desperately need. I suffer from sinusitis and it’s now harder for me to breathe. As a housecleaner, I often put myself and my family at risk of being exposed to covid. If I had access to health insurance, I would be able to put my health first, get my symptoms treated and live a better life. Governor Hochul and state legislators must prioritize including Coverage for All in the state budget this year. All immigrant New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, deserve access to affordable health insurance and to be healthy,” said Selene A., Member of Make the Road New York.

“Many of those essential workers who helped our State stay afloat during the pandemic are immigrants,” said Senate Health Committee Chair and bill sponsor Gustavo Rivera. “Unfortunately, our current healthcare system excludes them from being eligible for the coverage they need to get medical care. It is critical that we include my bill to expand our State’s Essential Plan to more New Yorkers, regardless of their immigration status, in this year’s budget. This is an important step we must take until we can fully pass the New York Health Act and guarantee healthcare for all New Yorkers.”

“No New Yorker should be denied health care because of immigration status,” said Assembly Health Committee Chair and bill sponsor Richard Gottfried. “New York should be a progressive leader in promoting health equity. Expanding health coverage to undocumented adults is good fiscal and moral policy and I hope we can advance Coverage for All in this year’s budget.”

“After passing and implementing the Excluded Workers Fund, we consistently heard that New Yorkers who received relief used the money to pay off overdue medical debt. Passing Coverage For All is evidence that we have learned from the pandemic, that we are learning from the injustices that the crisis only exposed, and building a true safety floor that doesn’t allow anyone to fall through. As we continue the fight for permanent excluded worker relief, as we continue the fight for the New York Health Act, it is imperative that we pass Coverage for All,” said State Senator Jessica Ramos.

“The action that advocates and all of us are engaging in today is not hyperbolic. Undocumented New Yorkers are dying all over this state because they are the most vulnerable among us to suffer from healthcare disparities. And yet these are the same New Yorkers, our neighbors, that rose every day to help our state manage the coronavirus pandemic and continue to help us as we recover. They don’t need clapping. They need healthcare. So I call on our state legislature, leadership, and Governor to include coverage for all in our Assembly one-house and enacted budget. It is sound economic and healthcare policy and, put simply, it is the right thing to do,” said Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas.

“Even during a pandemic, many of our immigrant neighbors continue to ignore health issues and delay doctor’s visits due to lack of insurance coverage,” said Assemblymember Marcela Mitaynes. “Our state has more than enough resources to enact Coverage for All. To ensure a just recovery, we must prioritize those who are most in need and those who have been excluded from our social safety net. I urge Governor Hochul to include Coverage for All in this year’s budget.”

“Every New Yorker should have access to health insurance regardless of their immigration status,” said Assemblymember Michaelle Solages. “No one should avoid seeking essential medical care because they cannot afford it. Not only will this bill make New Yorkers healthier, it will save our state money by reducing emergency medicaid costs.”

“Our immigrant New Yorkers put their lives on the line to keep our city running every single day. Yet without health insurance, they languish from seeking treatment from a preventable health condition until it is too late,” said Mon Yuck Yu, Executive Vice President & Chief of Staff at the Academy of Medical & Public Health Services. “Providing Coverage for All means respecting basic human dignity. Healthcare should not be a privilege, but a basic human right.”

“Healthcare is a basic human right. We have lost so much in this pandemic and our most vulnerable have been on the frontlines as essential workers, taking care of all of us, without even having the basic tools to care for themselves,” said Akinde Agnes Kodjo-Sanogo, Lead Organizer of African Communities Together. “We can’t wait any longer. Immigrant New Yorkers need coverage now!”

“Access to health care for essential workers and low-income New Yorkers could not be more critical than now after we have all braved a two-year pandemic. If the number of New Yorkers risking their housing to pay for medication for a life-threatening disease is not enough to pull our state’s logic and heart strings then the number of state-wide deaths in the last couple of years due to lack of health insurance should. No more excuses- coverage for all!” said Jirandy Martínez, Community Resource Center.

“2,281 Staten Islanders lost the battle to COVID. Many of them were our own members. These deaths were preventable and future suffering is avoidable with the passing of #Coverage4All,” said Andrés García, Co-Executive Director of El Centro Del Inmigrante. “These are the moments where we will look back and recognize whether we meant it when we called our neighbors essential heroes. Will we remember or will we forget?”

“MinKwon Center For Community Action condemns the lack of access to healthcare that disproportionately affects immigrant communities, especially those whom are undocumented. #Coverage4All would provide 154,000 immigrant New Yorkers access to the New York State of Health Marketplace for subsidized health insurance,” said Woojung (Diana) Park, Immigrant Justice Organizer for Minkwon Center for Community Action.

“At Neighbors Link, we know that New York is healthier and safer when everyone can access affordable, quality healthcare. Coverage for All is a critically important piece of legislation to make affordable healthcare a reality for all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status,” said Katie Graves-Abe, Neighbors Link.

#Coverage4All is a campaign to expand coverage to all New Yorkers. The campaign is a coalition of community members, community organizations, health care providers, legal service providers, and labor, immigrant, and health care consumer advocates. Our objective is to create a statewide health insurance product for New Yorkers who are excluded from eligibility for coverage because of their immigration status, by enacting A880A/S1572A. A campaign of Health Care for All New York (HCFANY), #Coverage4All is led by the New York Immigration Coalition and Make the Road New York.

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