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Wednesday, June 18th 2003

The Honorable Bob Graham
U.S. Senate
524 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Sen. Graham:

On behalf of the American Hospital Association (AHA), I am writing to express our support for Title VI, Section 605, included in S.1, "The Prescription Drug and Medicare Improvement Act of 2003."  The AHA represents nearly 5,000 hospitals, health care systems, networks, and other providers of health care.

The provision, modeled after "The Immigrant Children's Health Improvement Act of 2003," allows each state the option of providing immediate health care coverage to legal immigrant women and children under the Medicaid or State Children's Health Insurance Programs (SCHIP).  Current law prohibits any legal immigrant who arrived in the United States after August 1996 from qualifying for coverage unless she has been in this country for five or more years.

We believe states should not be precluded from providing Medicaid or SCHIP to legal immigrant children due to an arbitrary entry date.  Such a policy will inevitably mean that some children will develop health complications that could have been prevented.  The long-term effects of inadequate health care services can prevent children from making a full economic contribution as they grow into adulthood.  Similarly, we believe it is arbitrary to deny needed prenatal care to lawfully present pregnant women simply because they arrived after a certain date.  From an economic and health perspective, the benefits of investing in prenatal care are well established.

Because legal immigrants frequently lack comprehensive health insurance coverage, many delay seeking needed health care until they are critically ill.  When they do seek care, it is often in a costly emergency department setting, with health care providers absorbing the costs.  Until Congress takes action to address the arbitrary cut-off date for legal immigrants to receive public benefits such as Medicaid and SCHIP, caring for legal immigrants will continue to add to the financial burden already faced by many hospitals across the country.

We strongly support "The Immigrant Children's Health Improvement Act of 2003" and urge you to retain the provision in S.1.


Rick Pollack
Executive Vice President


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