Press Release: The Utah Legislature Ends the 5-Year Waiting Period for Lawfully Residing Immigrant Children to Access Healthcare

Voices Utah Children LogoAs part of H.B.2, the New Fiscal Year Supplemental Appropriations Act, the Utah Legislature included intent language that removes the 5-year waiting period before lawfully residing immigrant children may qualify for CHIP or Medicaid.

“We are thrilled that the Utah Department of Health can now cover legal resident children without requiring a 5-year wait,” said Jessie Mandle, Health Policy Analyst, Voices for Utah Children. “Five years is too long for a child to wait for healthcare.” Utah is now the 29th state to expand eligibility for lawfully residing immigrant children since 2009, when the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA) gave states the option to expand insurance coverage to “lawfully residing children and pregnant women.” This category includes legal permanent residents (LPRs) and children admitted for additional humanitarian reasons. It does not cover those here on a temporary basis or undocumented persons. Utah will receive federal matching funds to remove the 5-year waiting period at an enhanced federal matching rate, making this a fiscally-prudent policy change for Utah. A recent study in the Journal of Health Affairs found that immigrant children had a significant reduction in unmet healthcare needs in states that eliminated the 5-year wait.

Utah ranks 47th in the nation for children’s health insurance coverage and last for coverage of Hispanic children. “We hope that eliminating barriers to enrollment like the 5-year wait will help us get out of last place for enrollment of Hispanic kids in health coverage,” said Mandle. In Utah, 23.4% of Hispanic children are uninsured, compared to 6% of non-Hispanic White children. Utah’s uninsured rate for Hispanic children is nearly two and a half times the national rate and is higher than the rate in every other state and the District of Columbia. 

Voices for Utah Children thanks the Utah Legislature for their leadership in making this important, cost-effective change to improve the lives of Utah children and families.