Utah lawmaker's plan would kick immigrant kids off insurance

Published on January 02, 2018 at 07:41AM

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah senator proposing to make new legal immigrants wait five years before receiving coverage through government health insurance programs said he’s trying to promote self-reliance and discourage socialism.

Critics of State Sen. Allen Christensen’s plan argue that it’s mean-spirited and will strip health care coverage from 475 legal immigrant children, The Salt Lake Tribune reported Thursday.

His plan would reinstate a previous provision that required new legal immigrants, who are mostly Latinos, to wait five years before they could qualify for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

“It’s kind of a fairness issue,” he said. “Do we welcome immigrants and say the minute you get here you can have Medicaid when a lot of our people who are already here don’t?”

Entitlement programs don’t have a place in our society, Christensen said.

He argues that by reinstating the requirement, more people will be independent from the government.

The move would not save Utah money since the federal government covers the Medicaid costs for new immigrants who were legal permanent residents, said Lincoln Nehring, president and CEO for Voices for Utah Children.

Because of that, Nehring see no reason to support Christensen’s plan, he said.

“His motivation is he doesn’t think these (legal immigrant) kids are deserving, or as deserving as other children,” Nehring said.

In a letter to Christensen, new Catholic bishop of Utah Oscar Solis told the state senator that his plan could put children at risk, just as they were before the waiting period was lifted.

“This lack of coverage for our youth affected not only their immediate health, but their future prospects as well,” Solis wrote.

Although the bill’s draft is complete and has been released to the public, Christensen said he will wait to see where public debate goes before he decides if he will move it forward.