Legislation sponsored by Morales and Cano expanding Medicaid to ‘Cover All Kids’ included in state budget
STATE HOUSE – The budget bill passed by the General Assembly and recently signed into law includes the “Cover All Kids” proposal by Rep. David Morales and Sen. Sandra Cano to ensure that all lower-income children, regardless of immigration status, qualify for health insurance under the state’s RIte Track program.
The budget allows the RIte Track program to provide care to income-qualified children who are Rhode Island residents, without regard to their immigration status. RIte Track provides medical benefits to all children whose family income is at or below 250 percent of poverty through the Medical Assistance program.
“Regardless of one’s socioeconomic or immigration status, healthcare is a human right. Everyone in our community deserves the right to visit a doctor, a dentist, and an optometrist without having to worry about whether they can afford treatment, especially our kids coming from working families. By passing and investing in the Cover all Kids initiative, we are taking the first step to establish universal healthcare coverage for all our people. I’m proud to have led this effort because since taking office, this has been my priority for the last two years. Growing up I knew far too many friends and neighbors who lacked healthcare coverage simply because of where they were born, something that they had absolutely no control over. Moving forward, however, no longer will lower-income children who lack healthcare, through no fault of their own, be forced to depend on the emergency room as their only source of care. By passing this initiative, we are going to transform the lives of hundreds to thousands of kids and their families for the better,” said Representative Morales (D-Dist. 7, Providence).
Rhode Island covered all children regardless of status for almost 10 years in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Currently, there are about 3,000 uninsured children in our state who are not enrolled in the RIte Track program and are not able to access the health care services they need.
Expanding coverage would allow parents to take their children to the doctor for preventive care, see specialists as necessary and buy critical medications that can help reduce higher health care costs for the state because if children are hospitalized, the hospital bills are covered by Medicaid, with the state paying its required share.
“Every child needs regular health care. They should not suffer because of their legal status or socioeconomic background. Their parents shouldn’t have to avoid taking them to the hospital in an emergency for fear it will result in their family being deported. Of course they should have immunizations, attention to their development and medical treatment when they are sick. We are stronger and safer when everyone in Rhode Island has the health care they need,” said Senator Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket).
The budget (2022-H-7123Aaa) includes the legislation (2022-S 2187, 2022-H 7484) introduced this year by Senator Cano and Representative Morales and adds about $2 million for benefits and implementation in the coming year. It would provide for the appropriation of state-only funds to pay for coverage if federal funds are not available.
The bill was supported by more than 20 organizations including Rhode Island KIDS COUNT, Economic Progress Institute and The Latino Policy Institute.
“In 2019, 98.1% of Rhode Island children had health insurance coverage and Rhode Island ranked second for children’s health insurance coverage,” said Elizabeth Burke Bryant, executive director of Rhode Island KIDS COUNT. “To achieve our goal of covering all kids, we must restore access to RIte Care health insurance for income-eligible children who are undocumented immigrants. All children need access to health care that supports their healthy growth and development and promotes school success.”
Linda Katz, policy director of Economic Progress Institute said, “COVID-19 has reinforced how interconnected and interdependent we are. Ensuring that all of Rhode Island's children have access to comprehensive health care through RIte Care enrollment not only helps those youngsters but protects all of us.”
“During the pandemic, we have experienced firsthand the impacts of health disparities on the educational and economic outcomes of our most vulnerable Black and Latino communities. Ensuring that our youngest Rhode Islanders have access to health coverage is a public health issue we cannot continue to ignore,” said Marcela Betancur, Director of The Latino Policy Institute.