Photo Credit: New York Immigration Coalition
Today, Immigrant advocates held rallies in New York City, Long Island and Yonkers demanding for state lawmakers to pass Coverage for All. The legislation would create a state-funded health coverage option for all New Yorkers with income up to 200% of the federal poverty line regardless of immigration status. Earlier this month, the Coverage for All bill(A880A/S1572A) passed in both Senate and Assembly Health committees.
At the rallies, immigrants eligible under the legislation spoke about their struggles without access to healthcare before and during the pandemic; while elected officials and community leaders called on the need for Governor Hochul to include the legislation in this year’s state budget – highlighting how the pandemic has exposed inequities in healthcare coverage.
Today’s demonstrations follow a similar rally in Harlem last week and a Thursday Facebook Live event where Western and Central New York healthcare and agricultural workers spoke about living with long COVID and chronic health issues without insurance.
Last month, the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) launched an ad campaign across TV and digital platforms in response to Governor Hochul leaving out healthcare for immigrant New Yorkers from her official executive budget proposal.
“I have been in the United States for 12 years working year-round on an apple farm in the Finger Lakes region, and I have to pay out of pocket for my health care costs which are too expensive for me alone. Although I pay taxes I don’t have access to medical coverage because of my immigration status. When I need medical care, I have to make the decision if I will seek it or not, but the pain becomes too unbearable so then I have no other choice but to keep paying in the thousands of dollars,” said Beatriz, Apple Farmworker, Fingerlakes Region/WNY.
“We have families we support in Mexico…It’s unfortunate because we do not have the money to go to the doctor. We have no resources to pay for these expensive bills… So that is why we are here to support #Coverage4all, which will give us a chance to receive coverage. It is only fair we receive medical care coverage because we provide so much to this country and we provide food on everyone’s table, so it benefits us all. I am here to ask legislators who have this power to make it better for all of us,” said Ismael, Livestock Farmworker, Fingerlakes Region/WNY.
“In my last job as a nanny in 2018, I had an accidental fall. And was only given pain medication by my employer and told to go lie down and rest awhile. Since then, I have been experiencing endless complications, some including walking, sitting, and standing for long periods and feeling enormous pains. Sometimes I use a walking cane, which was not given to me by medical professionals, but I use it anyway because it is useful at times. If I had access to health care, without hesitation I would have gotten the help I needed. Domestic workers are essential workers and we should be able to gain access to quality health care for all; especially when accidents happen in the workplace. Passing Coverage for All will transform the lives of the hundreds of thousands of my domestic worker sisters across New York, where we will no longer have to decide between taking care of ourselves or taking care of others,” said Sandra, Domestic Worker, Bronx.
“Immigrant New Yorkers play a crucial role in keeping our communities moving. These essential workers helped keep communities across New York safe during the pandemic, often putting themselves and their families at risk. In a state that thrives on the diversity that other cultures bring, we must ensure that all people who call New York home have access to lifesaving healthcare. As the daughter of an immigrant, I call on my colleagues in the legislature to support #Coverage4All to allow all New Yorkers to obtain insurance coverage, regardless of immigration status. We must treat these workers with the respect and the dignity they deserve,” said State Senator Samra Brouk.
“Fighting for a just recovery from the pandemic is not just rhetoric, it looks like passing bills like Coverage For All. We saw that the Excluded Workers Fund pumped money into every corner of our state, allowing workers to pay off debts of all kinds, particularly medical debt. Passing Coverage For All and Excluded No More will put immigrant New Yorkers in a better place than they were before the pandemic, which, in turn, is good for the entire state,” said State Senator Jessica Ramos. “If we have learned anything, it is that the best public health defense we have is a safety net that doesn’t let anyone fall through. We’re going to start with Coverage For All to cover the most vulnerable, then continue the fight for single-payer statewide.”
“I’m a proud co-sponsor of the Coverage for All bill. Opening up health coverage to all New Yorkers has no downside. The more people who are insured, the less of a burden there is on the entire health care system. And nobody should have to decide between paying the rent or buying groceries and getting medical treatment that they need. Let’s have New York once again be a leader in equity and access,” said Assemblymember Chris Burdick.
“At the New York State Democratic Convention last night, Democratic leaders missed another opportunity to show their support for New York’s immigrant communities. Immigrants are the backbone of New York and deserve full access to basic services like healthcare. I’m proud to co-sponsor A880, the Coverage for All bill, to expand state health insurance coverage to all immigrants in New York, regardless of immigration status. I urge Governor Hochul to include Coverage for All in the executive budget, and for my colleagues in the Assembly to include it in the one-house resolution so we can help get this bill across the finish line. Thank you to Make the Road New York, Health Care for All New York, and New York Immigration Coalition for organizing today’s rally and fighting everyday for our immigrant communities,’ said Assemblymember Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas.
“Last year, our state negotiated a budget amidst a global pandemic, and we won the first tax increase on the ultra-rich in over a decade and the largest increase in recent memory. We are in the third year of a global pandemic, and many New Yorkers, especially those who are essential to our communities and daily services, continue to suffer from the impacts of COVID-19 and the inequities of our institutions. We need to establish permanent programs and extend high-quality, fully state-funded health care to all working-class New Yorkers – especially to the hundreds of thousands of our neighbors who are ineligible because of their immigration status. As a state, it is our responsibility to ensure every individual has the right to healthcare and dignity,” said Assemblymember Marcela Mitaynes.
“The hundreds of thousands of undocumented people in New York are one-car crash or terrible fall away from a hospital bill that could ruin their lives. The thousands of our undocumented neighbors without access to healthcare is a moral failing of our state,” said Council Member Shahana Hanif. “As someone who lives with an incurable chronic illness, my healthcare impacts every decision I make. I consider myself lucky to have health insurance because I know this struggle would be virtually impossible without it. The Coverage For All legislation is the best plan we have to ensure thousands of our neighbors can get the care they need immediately and consistently without the threat of bankruptcy. Healthcare is a human right, and our undocumented neighbors deserve it just like anyone else.”
“Despite being at the frontlines throughout this pandemic, thousands of low-income immigrant New Yorkers are struggling with the long-term consequences of lack of access to comprehensive care, making life harder than ever. Every New Yorker deserves access to affordable health insurance, regardless of immigration status and today’s demonstrations are only the start of demanding that right. Governor Hochul can end this disparity in healthcare access by including Coverage for All in the budget. It is essential that all New Yorkers and their families are strong and safe,” said Murad Awawdeh, Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition.
“If I had health insurance, I would be able to get a free preventative mammogram and cervical cancer screening, but instead I’m forced to pay hundreds of dollars and spend months waiting for an appointment. Thousands of immigrant New Yorkers like me, suffer in silence due to the lack of medical care, access to medication and essential lab work for our health. It is long-overdue for the Governor and legislature to include the Coverage for All legislation in the state budget to ensure all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, can have comprehensive and affordable health care insurance,” said Norberta G., Make the Road New York member and Yonkers resident.
“New York State families and children need health care coverage now! Help us pass “Coverage for All” so that all New Yorkers no matter their immigration status can afford to look after themselves and their families. Many essential workers who made it their business to take care of All while the pandemic was raging now need our voices to be heard on their behalf!,” said Helen Dorado-Alessi, Long Beach Latino Civic Association.
“Expanding healthcare coverage would greatly benefit the AAPI community we serve. Just within New York City, 13% of the AAPI population are undocumented. Healthcare is a human right and all of our community members deserve access to it. The Coalition for Asian American Children and Families, the nation’s only pan-Asian children and family policy advocacy organization, is a strong supporter of #CoverageforAll and believes Governor Hochul should include it in the budget this year,” said Medha Ghosh, Health Policy Coordinator at Coalition for Asian American Children + Families.
“Healthcare is a human right that should not be denied to anyone. Every resident of New York State deserves healthcare, regardless of immigration status,” said Soshana Hershkowitz, Long Island Social Justice Action Network.
“If Health is Wealth, and undocumented immigrants don’t have access to total health care, how are we then supposed to build wealth?,” said Audu Kadiri, Community Organizer, African Communities Together.
“Coverage for All will improve and expand access to essential and lifesaving healthcare for countless immigrants in New York State. This is a public health issue and will benefit all members of our community,” said Cheryl Keshner, Empire Justice Center.
“Immigrant, essential workers have been the backbone of our society throughout the pandemic. New York could not have gotten through the pandemic without the sweats and tears of our fellow immigrants. Healthcare is a basic human right and they deserve to access quality and affordable health coverage just as much as the rest of us. We ask our state legislators to make 2022 the year where all NY residents can apply for health insurance regardless of their immigration status,” said Jessica Lee, Program Manager, NY/NJ Healthcare Navigator Program Public Health and Research Center Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York, Inc.
“Access to comprehensive health coverage should not be determined by immigration status. Everyone should be able to see a doctor, get prescription drugs and take care of their health. #Coverage4All is the way forward,” said Rehan Mehmood, Director of Health Services, South Asian Council for Social Services.
“It is unconscionable that thousands of low-income New Yorkers statewide continue to not have access to affordable health insurance simply because of their immigration status. Many of these immigrant New Yorkers have carried us through the pandemic as essential workers, yet they have been left behind. We know that access to health care coverage significantly improves well-being and saves lives. As we enter the third year of the pandemic and continue to rebuild and recover together, New York cannot afford to wait any longer to invest in the health of our immigrant families by passing #Coverage4All,” said Ella Nimmo, LMSW, Director of Community Programs & Development, Cabrini Immigrant Services of NYC.
“Having access to affordable and quality healthcare is the right of every resident of New York, regardless of their immigration status. A healthy New York is a Wealthy New York! ‘Fund #Coverage4All!,” said Toyin Omolola, President and CEO, DSI International, Inc.