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June 18, 1999
Bill Seeks To Help Low-Income Immigrants
A P Kamath
Many top-ranking Republican and Demorcratic senators are backing legislation to restore aid to low-income pregnant women and children.
If passed, the bill initiated by John Chafee (Republican, Rhode Island), could help over 125,000 children and 50,000 pregnant women each year. It will cost the government at least $100 million for each of next five years.
It seeks to restore health coverage cut by Congress two years ago when it set out to reform welfare programs. The cut brought strong protests not only from pro-immigrant groups but also the mayors of large cities such as New York, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco who complained that their own city governments had to assume a big burden of helping the indigent immigrants.
Called The Immigrant Children's Health Improvement Act of 1999, the legislation is backed by Republican presidential hopeful John McCain.
Chafee said while he supported welfare reform with emphasis on self-sufficiency and individual responsibility, he believed that the cuts made to immigrants' benefits as part of the 1996 reforms were "unwarranted".
The bill, also supported by Senator Patrick Moynihan (Democrat- New York) allows states to extend Medicaid coverage to eligible legal immigrant children and pregnant women, including those who arrived after August 1996 -- the cut-off date for immigrant benefits. It will replace the law that mandates states must wait five years before extending such coverage to immigrants who arrived in America after Aug. 22, 1996.
"The consequences of lack of insurance are problematic for everyone, but they are particularly serious for children," McCain said. "Uninsured and low-income children are less likely to receive vital primary and preventative care services."
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