(KCPW News) Legal immigrant children could enroll in the state Children's Health Insurance Program regardless of how long they've been residents of the United States, under a bill approved in committee this morning. Currently, legal residents have to wait five years before signing up. Senator Allen Christensen voted yes on the bill, but said getting rid of the waiting period could lead to abuse of the system.
"There's something about this that is inherently wrong with someone showing up, and immediately going on the public assistance rolls, and becoming a burden to the state, and to the taxpayers. Being an advocate for the children, that really conflicts me," Christensen said.
Bill Sponsor Senator Luz Robles responded that immigrant children can't afford to wait five years to get health coverage. The bill would cost the state $400,000, but Robles argued it would save money in the long run by encouraging preventative care. She said there is room right now for these children in the CHIP program.
"Right now affordability for health care is, we're in a crisis. I know this is a difficult issue for some of you, and I want to remind all of you that these are legal permanent children that are playing by the rules and this will only help us move towards more children in Utah being covered, and at the same time moving toward a health care system reform that makes sense," Robles said.
The bill passed with only one vote against it, and now moves on to the full Senate. When re-authorizing the CHIP program this year, Congress gave states the option to remove the five-year waiting period, but did not mandate it.