U.S. Representative Gene Green today will introduce the Immigrant Children’s Health Improvement Act (ICHIA), which give states the option to cover legal immigrants and will lift the current five year ban that legal immigrants must endure to enroll in Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). The House of Representatives is scheduled to take up legislation this week that will renew SCHIP and ICHIA is expected to accompany the bill.

Under current law, legal immigrants are barred from Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program for five years after they enter the United States. ICHIA lifts the current provision and allows states the option to include legal immigrant children in their programs.

“One of the top priorities of the 111th Congress is to provide wider access and to improve children’s health insurance,” said Green. “The passage of ICHIA gives access to health care to an additional 400,000 to 600,000 legal immigrant children affected by the current restrictions.”

Children of immigrants are three times more likely than children of native-born citizens to lack a primary provider. Immigrant women without access to prenatal care are four times more likely to deliver low birth-weight infants than immigrant women who have received prenatal care.

“70 percent of Americans believe that a renewal of SCHIP should include legal immigrant children,” said Green. “Passage of this bill will make it possible for thousands of legal immigrant children and pregnant women to enroll in health care coverage who were unable to before.”

During these tough economic times, millions of Americans are losing their jobs and health care and state budgets are being stretched. The immediate expansion of SCHIP and the inclusion of ICHIA will be more cost-effective for taxpayers and states, and will bring direct relief to families who would otherwise have to rely on costly emergency room care.

“Children cannot insure themselves. It is our responsibility to make sure that every child’s needs are met and that includes access to health care. A renewal of SCHIP will help provide America’s children with a healthy foundation for them to grow and succeed,” said Green.