In today’s political climate, being an undocumented immigrant is often nerve-wracking and intimidating. Health professionals report that, since the crackdown on “illegal immigrants,” migrant workers have been much less likely to pursue professional health care even when they desperately need it.
Believe it or not, though, there are multiple ways to safely access immigrant healthcare at low cost. Far from an untrustworthy, illegal health care system, these programs are entirely legal and taking advantage of them could be life-saving. Many clinics are also equipped with translators who can help doctors communicate with non-English-speaking patients, which is a vital aspect of immigrant health care.
Community Health Clinics and the Assistance They Offer
Most major metropolitan areas in the U.S. have at least one community health clinic. These health centers provide basic services like screenings for disease, basic dental care, diabetes treatment and STD tests. They are not free, but services are provided on a sliding scale basis according to income. These centers will treat patients regardless of immigrant status and ability to pay. They do not turn away patients. The drop in attendance at community health clinics has clear consequences for immigrant populations’ overall health. However, it’s also important to advocate for these programs to be expanded and improved. There is approximately one health clinic for every 85,000 undocumented immigrants in the country.
Medical School Clinics Offering Aid for Training
Many major medical schools also operate health clinics, which give advanced medical and dental students the chance to gain professional experience under the supervision of attending physicians. Many of these programs are entirely free to patients, and still, others are low-cost. However, they are often only available during certain nights of the week. Medical and dental school clinics provide an array of immigrant health care services, including screenings, tests, treatment and dental care.
Health Care for Enrolled Students
Most universities do not require that students be proven legal immigrants in order to enroll. Thus, undocumented students attend colleges and universities all over the U.S. These students are in an especially good position to obtain high-quality health care because they can easily enroll in a student health plan, which is usually part of tuition. Tuition may be covered by scholarships or loans. Five states provide health insurance coverage to all undocumented children under 18. These states include California, New York, Massachusetts, Washington, and Illinois. Children in these states are eligible for health care regardless of their immigration status.
Hosptial & Emergency Rooms Options Available
As a last resort, never hesitate to go to a hospital emergency room if you need urgent care. Hospitals that receive funding from the federal government are required to accept all patients who need emergency care. That includes undocumented immigrants and uninsured patients. However, keep in mind that hospitals are not required to provide care after the patient is no longer in an emergency condition. Most hospitals receive federal funding and are therefore required to follow this law. However, it’s worth double-checking the hospitals in your area before an emergency arises to make sure that they will accept you.
Obtaining Private Health Care Plans
Obtaining insurance through private plans, outside of employers, is extremely costly. Most citizens, whether documented or not, are unable to do so due to the expense. However, since undocumented immigrants aren’t eligible to apply through the Affordable Care Act, a small fraction choose to pay the high cost of private health insurance. The above programs are doing a world of good, and people should absolutely take advantage of them rather than turning to illegal healthcare solutions. Thus, while these programs might save your life as an individual, they’re unable to adequately serve the entire population at once. This leads to greater numbers of people seeking emergency care rather than preventative care, which is a huge burden on the healthcare system. The other major issue is that immigrants often don’t know about these resources or don’t trust them. By spreading the word that these programs are available, you can help benefit the country’s health as a whole.