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Utah, other states, start offering health insurance to immigrants who don’t have documentation

A growing number of states are opening taxpayer-funded health insurance programs to immigrants, including those living in the U.S. without authorization, even as Republicans assail President Joe Biden over a dramatic increase in illegal crossings of the southern border.

Eleven states and Washington, D.C., together provide full health insurance coverage to more than 1 million low-income immigrants regardless of their legal status, according to state data compiled by KFF Health News. Most aren’t authorized to live in the U.S., state officials say.

Enrollment in these programs could nearly double by 2025 as at least seven states initiate or expand coverage. In January, Republican-controlled Utah will start covering children regardless of immigration status, while New York and California will widen eligibility to cover more adults.

”These are kids, and we have a heart,” said Utah state Rep. Jim Dunnigan, a Republican who initially opposed his state’s plan to cover children lacking legal status but relented after compromises including a cap on enrollment.

The cost of Utah’s program is capped at $4.5 million a year, limiting enrollment to about 2,000 children. Premiums will vary based on income but cost no more than $300 a year, with preventive services covered in full.

”The pandemic highlighted the need to have coverage for everybody,” said Ciriac Alvarez Valle, senior policy analyst for Voices for Utah Children, an advocacy group. “It will make a huge impact on the lives of these kids.”

Without coverage, many children use emergency rooms for primary care and have little ability to afford drugs, specialists, or hospital care, she said. “I am not sure if this will open the door to adults having coverage, but it is a good step forward,” Alvarez Valle said.

[Read more: Here’s why health care advocates say there aren’t more Utahns on Medicaid]

There are more than 10 million people living in the U.S. without…

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