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Utahns celebrate bipartisan bill expanding children’s health insurance for immigrants

by Cedric Guzman

Community Celebrates Bill Allowing Immigrant Children to Access Health Insurance in Utah

Community members gathered at the Glendale Community Learning Center in Salt Lake City on Wednesday to celebrate the passing of a bill that will make children of immigrants eligible for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in Utah starting in 2024. The bill, known as SB217, was a result of five years of hard work, faith, and prayer by Senate Minority Leader Luz Escamilla.

Escamilla expressed her gratitude to her colleagues, especially the House sponsor Rep. Jim Dunnigan, for their support and willingness to work together on the bill. Dunnigan pointed out several factors that helped Republicans in the Legislature support the bill, including residency requirements, a cap on program expenses, and the need for unsubsidized employment to be eligible.

The legislation was also praised for its simplicity in utilizing the existing CHIP program. This program has insured 280,000 children in Utah over the past 25 years, and it is estimated that an additional 2,000 children of immigrant families will benefit from the expansion.

Jennifer Strohecker, the Medicaid director with the Utah Department of Health and Human Services, emphasized the importance of healthcare for children. She explained that children with insurance receive better healthcare, leading to better overall health, increased learning abilities, and the ability to contribute to society. The expansion of CHIP to include children of immigrants ensures that all children in Utah have fair and equitable access to healthcare.

Carlos Flores, health outreach program manager with Holy Cross Ministries, shared the positive impact this expansion will have on families. He mentioned that financial burdens are significantly lessened when children have access to health insurance, and immigrant mothers have expressed their joy and relief upon hearing the news.

The passing of this bill marks a significant milestone in providing healthcare to all children in Utah, regardless of their immigration status. It eliminates citizenship as a barrier and ensures that non-U.S. citizen children can access quality, affordable, and comprehensive healthcare. The community is encouraged to educate families about the program and alleviate any concerns about eligibility or access.

Overall, the celebration of this bill highlights the commitment of Utah legislators to creating public policies that improve the lives of all residents. It is a step toward building a more inclusive and compassionate society where every child has the opportunity to thrive and receive the healthcare they need.

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