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Illegal immigrant moms could lose health care

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The New York Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled last week that illegal immigrant women are no longer eligible for prenatal health care in an action that will have a profound impact on Queens with its large population of newcomers from overseas.

But until the measure formally takes effect, women will continue to receive prenatal care. Queens is the most diverse county in the nation because of its large numbers of immigrants.

State lawmakers may be able to bridge the gap with their own funding, however, said Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) who chairs the Assembly Health Committee.

“Whether the Legal Aid Society plans to appeal or not, we are trying at the state level to amend state law to guarantee prenatal coverage regardless of immigration status,” Gottfried said. “If the federal government doesn’t contribute, then the state will do it at its own cost.”

The original case was brought before city, state and federal courts several years ago. Advocates argued that pregnant women have a constitutional right to Medicaid coverage regardless of immigration status, said Gottfried.

“Part of the argument was that the baby when born would be automatically a U.S. citizen,” Gottfried said.

The two lower courts sided with the Legal Aid Society and their illegal immigrant plaintiffs. The federal court, however, decided to appeal to the Second Circuit Court, which overturned the ruling and denied the prenatal care.

Gottfried expects to propose a bill to subsidize prenatal care for illegal immigrant women on a state level this week. Two Queens assemblywomen, Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village) and Pauline Rhodd-Cummings (D-Far Rockaway) have signed on as cosponsors for the bill.

The ruling comes just two weeks after the state announced the city Health and Hospital Corporation would attempt to close down 27 New York City satellite clinics. Many of those clinics slated for closure serve patients without health insurance. Seven of the clinics are in Queens.

No formal announcements have been received from the mayor’s office, Gottfried said, but he expects the Health and Hospital Corporation to stand behind the bill.

“The people within the corporation have told us informally that they support it,” he said.

Reach reporter Jennifer Warren by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 155.

Posted 7:07 pm, October 10, 2011
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