HEALTH

Utah is ‘stepping up’ by providing health insurance to immigrant children

Oct 11, 2023, 12:00 PM | Updated: 1:00 pm

ep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, and Senate Minority Leader Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, talk ...

Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, and Senate Minority Leader Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, talk and pose for photos after a press conference to announce the expansion of a new State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to cover children previously deemed ineligible due to their citizenship status at the Glendale Community Learning Center in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023. Enrollment will begin on Jan. 1, 2024. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Earlier this year, Utah legislators passed a bill that allows children of immigrants to be eligible for the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program.

A press conference was held last week to unveil the new Utah CHIP program. Ciriac Alvarez Valle, senior policy analyst at Voices for Utah Children, told KSL NewsRadio how the bill will affect immigrant communities in Utah.

 

Alvarez Valle said it would help cover children who aren’t U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. That includes children of undocumented immigrants as well.

“It’s projected from the Department of Health that about 2,000 kids would qualify for this,” Alvarez Valle said.

Families will be able to apply through the Department of Health and Human Services starting in 2024. Those who apply can’t be on subsidized employment and must be a Utah resident for six months.

Utah ‘stepping up’ to insure children

Alvarez Valle said the only difference in coverage is immigrant children will have state CHIP coverage rather than federal CHIP coverage. 

“For the past five years, we’ve just seen an alarming trend where Utah has one of the highest rates of uninsured kids in the whole country,” Alvarez Valle said.

The rates of uninsured kids are highest for Latino children and children in rural areas have the highest rates of being uninsured. Alvarez Valle said it’s a welcome mat effect. Not only is the legislation bipartisan and aimed toward working and low-income families, but it’s also “helping the most vulnerable children in our state.”

“We are stepping up in ensuring that all kids in our state have the opportunity to have coverage and then get the health care that they need,” Alvarez Valle said.

This legislation is especially important right now, she said, because the Continuous Medicaid Eligibility is “unwinding.” Many people are losing coverage as the public health emergency the COVID-19 pandemic spurred has come to an end.

So, instead of more health care coverage loss, Utah is providing more coverage to those in need.

Alvarez Valle said there’s also research that shows that children who have health insurance have better short-term and long-term health outcomes. They’re also more likely to graduate high school, earn high wages and generate more tax revenue for the state.

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Utah is ‘stepping up’ by providing health insurance to immigrant children