Expanding Health Care Coverage

Project Title

Policies to Maximize Immigrants' Enrollment in Existing and Prospective Insurance Programs

Grant Amount


Priority Area

Expanding Health Care Coverage

Date Awarded

November 15, 2007







Immigrants in New York, including those living here lawfully, are three times less likely to have health insurance than their American-born counterparts.

In response to this issue, New Yorkers for Accessible Health Coverage, a program of the Center for the Independence of the Disabled in New York (CIDNY), in partnership with the New York Immigration Coalition, aimed to study strategies that would improve immigrants’ access to insurance. CIDNY undertook several activities to identify barriers to coverage and to identify ways for public and private programs to enroll non-citizens.

This project was part of a larger NYHealth Coverage Consortium that funded 10 grants to seven universities, policy institutes, and community agencies across the State to support projects that could inform State health reform efforts, offer ways to streamline enrollment in public programs, significantly reduce costs and improve quality, and test ideas for expanding coverage among small employers, sole proprietors, and self-employed people.

Read an NYHealth special report that contains a summary of findings from this consortium.

Immigrants account for a large number of uninsured residents in New York State. New Yorkers for Accessible Health Coverage (NYFAHC) will look at the barriers and risks immigrants face in New York’s current public insurance programs and the potential for barriers under proposed reforms.

Immigrants are approximately three times more likely than U.S.-born residents to be uninsured and are the majority of the uninsured population in New York State. They are less likely to enroll in public coverage when they or their children are eligible because of fears and confusion about their rights and the potential immigration consequences of using public benefits. Additionally, immigrants are more likely to work in industries in which few employers offer insurance.

This project proposes to analyze the barriers and risks immigrants—including those who are ill and disabled—face in New York’s current programs and those that immigrants may encounter with anticipated coverage expansions. The final report will recommend policy changes for New York State to increase immigrant enrollment in public programs in the near term. Center for the Independence of the Disabled, New York (CID-NY) proposes to combine its health care policy expertise on the issues of people with disabilities with the experience of the New York Immigration Coalition to propose immediate policy changes to health care barriers affecting immigrants. Mark Scherzer, Esq., will serve as project director and lead the development of future coverage designs. NYFAHC will also develop a “connector” modeled on the Chamber of Commerce’s (or other associations’) insurance plans that will serve as an insurance home for immigrants who are able to purchase coverage. A targeted private insurance mechanism can help immigrants comply with any universal State coverage mandates. The final product, a comprehensive written report, will serve as a blueprint for action. This model would ease access to health insurance for immigrants, who are among the most likely to be uninsured at any income level and in any employment setting. The target population for this project is the approximately 1.5 million immigrant New Yorkers who lack health insurance, half of whom are eligible for free or low-cost public insurance coverage, but are not enrolled. Thus, the analysis of current barriers and proposals for their elimination will particularly affect these approximately 750,000 immigrants who are eligible, but not enrolled.

This project is part of the NYS Health Coverage Consortium.