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New bill could give Medicaid access to some N.H. immigrant children, pregnant people

Close-up of a pregnant woman during medical visit.

The proposed bill could expand Medicaid and children's health insurance coverage to permanent residents who lawfully reside in the United States.

The New Hampshire State House is currently studying a bill that could offer Medicaid benefits to some immigrant children and pregnant people who are in the process of obtaining citizenship.

Immigrants in these groups can’t access the programs in the first five years after receiving a green card. This process leaves many of them uninsured.

H.B. 1578 proposes access can go into effect once they have obtained permanent residence, eliminating the five-year waiting period. But it would not be automatic; potential participants will still have to qualify for the program first.

Rep. Manny Espitia, a Nashua Democrat, says this waiting period has been lifted in other states.

If immigrants are uninsured, Rep. Espitia said “either they have to pay out of pocket or that the hospital takes up a lot of the bill.”

“They have to swallow the bill. So that hurts our hospital system,” he said.

If the bill gets approved, half of the total cost of expanding coverage would come from the state’s general funds and the half would come from matching federal funds.

“We want folks to feel safe while they wait for their citizenship,” said Espitia.

This Wednesday, the New Hampshire House Democrats criticized New Hampshire Republicans for suggesting immigrants were having “serial pregnancies” to take advantage of postpartum Medicaid. The tweet including this statement was signed by Reps. Joe Shapiro and Megan Murray.

“Immigrant families in New Hampshire deserve equal access to affordable healthcare,” said Shapiro.

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