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Immigrants At Higher Risk Of Being Disconnected To Coverage And Care

Immigrants At Higher Risk Of Being Disconnected To Coverage And Care

April 5, 2019

The immigrant community has always been at the core of much of the work that Health Care For All (HCFA) does. HCFA’s HelpLine handles over 20,000 calls each year, and 50% percent of these calls come from individuals who do not speak English as a first language. Many of our callers are immigrants. Over the years, we have implemented outreach and educational activities in areas of Massachusetts with a higher concentration of foreign-born populations, such as Framingham, Chelsea, Lowell, Waltham, and Somerville. Even though health disparities persist, we have made great strides in connecting foreign-born communities to health coverage and care. Some of that progress is now on the line.

Soon after the presidential election in November 2016, we started hearing from providers about immigrant patients who were delaying care or skipping doctors’ appointments altogether due to fear and mistrust. The constant attack on our communities, the anti-immigrant rhetoric coming from the Trump Administration and newly introduced policies, were leading a part of the population back into the shadows. These policies include the end of programs such as the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the changes to public charge regulations (a proposed rule that can prevent immigrants who use specific public benefits from adjusting status or becoming permanent residents), a surge in immigration enforcement activities, detention and deportation raids, news about immigrant children detained at facilities at the border, and other policies.

HCFA is in regularly in contact with community leaders who have told us about residents not attending English classes or showing up at community events. We also heard about people not renewing their health care coverage, skipping vaccinations, not seeing a doctor before flu symptoms got out of control that turned into pneumonia, and other instances where our neighbors were not accessing the preventive services they need to get healthy and stay healthy. This places our public health system at risk.

We knew it was time to step up work in this area and with the support of several foundations, we developed and implemented a project to educate community members, leaders, advocates, providers and other stakeholders about the rights that immigrants have to health insurance and access to health care services. These efforts have helped bring important information to our communities and, as a result, we have conducted trainings throughout the region, with a particular focus on the Greater Boston and Greater Framingham areas.

In 2018, HCFA, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) and Health Law Advocates (HLA) held “Democracy School: Building Health Care Power in Immigrant Communities”. At this event, 65 activists, immigration and service providers, and volunteers improved their understanding of how immigration issues relate to health care and public health. Participants were then able to bring the lessons learned in this training back to their agencies and communities. These three organizations are partnering again in 2019, and we are inviting those interested to attend a new edition of the Democracy School that will take place in downtown Boston on Saturday May 18th, from 9:30AM to 2 PM. You can be part of the solution by joining us that day. Please contact Rosana Gijsen, HCFA’s Outreach Coordinator at  rgijsen@hcfama.org  to confirm attendance by April 20th.  

- Maria Gonzalez, Strategy and Communications Director, Health Care For All



This blog is part of HCFA’s 2019 Public Health Awareness Week series.