Access to Healthcare for Immigrants

Access to healthcare can be determined by several factors (i.e. geographical location, income, insurance)–being an immigrant, especially a recent immigrant to the U.S., is one of these factors. In Albany, NY, the immigrant population has grown over the past few years and currently, 13.2% of the population consists of individuals that were not born in the U.S. (1). Coming to a new country presents many unique challenges, but access to healthcare is one that can prevent individuals from adjusting well and living a safe and healthy lifestyle.

Health Insurance

Due to their lack of citizenship after first moving to the U.S., health insurance options can be limited for immigrants, especially for undocumented immigrants (2). This limits access to many providers who only accept patients with insurance, and while undocumented immigrants can sometimes receive care from community health centers, this care is often only basic primary care or to be used in emergencies (2).

In New York state, all children can receive the Child Health Plus plan, regardless of their immigration status. This plan is comprehensive and includes preventative care, well-child visits, and emergency services (3). Additionally, pregnant women can receive Medicaid regardless of immigration status and some documented immigrants may qualify for the Essential Plan soon after they move to NY (2). However, if an individual does not fit into these categories, the only services that an undocumented immigrant may receive are emergency services (2). While this is beneficial, it leaves out the preventative care and services that can treat symptoms before they worsen beyond control.

Translation Services & Health Literacy

Many immigrant families, especially when they first immigrate to the U.S., are considered to have low English proficiency (LEP). This makes communication in healthcare settings a challenge and can be a barrier to receiving quality care, as the patient and provider cannot have a direct, fluid conversation. Some health care settings in New York have put up this ‘Language Identification Tool Poster’ that allows patients to point to their language, so that appropriate translation services may be provided.  A portion of the poster is shown below, with a link to the full poster here:

While resources such as this poster can help, patients and providers would still not be able to speak directly to each other, and would only be able to communicate through a translator.

Additionally, understanding health insurance options can also be difficult when there is a language barrier, as there are different requirements for each plan. A search engine can be found here for in-person help. This search engine consists of a directory of in-person helpers that can assist individuals in navigating the health system and health insurance plans specifically. While only eight languages are supported, including English, this service can benefit some individuals in understanding how to receive health services for themselves and their families.

COVID-19

With the current pandemic, language barriers present a unique challenge in being able to transmit public health information clearly to the general population. As immigrants make up a large portion of the population, it is essential that they understand basic information about the virus and are able to practice appropriate measures to limit the spread of the virus. Valleywise Health Medical Center in Arizona has made a series of videos available on Youtube that describe what COVID-19 is and what to do if you are sick. These videos have been made available in 12 languages, one of which can be played below.

These videos can be incredibly helpful for individuals that may not understand what is happening in their local communities as a result the virus, but coming across these videos may not be common for many immigrants, as they require some searching. It would therefore be helpful for similar resources and information to be sent to or made available to local communities, either in the style of videos or in pamphlet form.

While many resources exist to help immigrants navigate the healthcare system and obtain information about resources, these resources are not always used or made readily available to immigrant families. Many require searching and prior knowledge about websites and organizations that usually provide public health, insurance, and language services. In the future, it would be important to ensure that immigrants are aware of the resources that exist so that they can have access to the healthcare that they might need. What are some ways this could be done?

21,258 thoughts on “Access to Healthcare for Immigrants

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  5. Dear ROPRIF,

    We wanted to extend our heartfelt gratitude for your recent article on access to healthcare for immigrants, particularly in the Albany, NY area. Your in-depth exploration of this vital topic not only raises awareness of the unique challenges faced by immigrants but also provides valuable information and resources that can help bridge the gap in healthcare access.

    Your dedication to shedding light on the issues faced by immigrants in accessing healthcare is commendable. As you’ve pointed out, access to healthcare can be challenging for immigrants due to various factors, including immigration status and language barriers. Your article effectively underscores the significance of addressing these challenges for the well-being of immigrant communities.

    Your discussion of health insurance options and the limitations faced by undocumented immigrants in particular highlights the complexities of this issue. Your inclusion of information about programs like Child Health Plus and Medicaid for pregnant women offers hope for some, but it also emphasizes the need for broader access to preventative care and services.

    The section on translation services and health literacy is incredibly informative. Language barriers can be a significant obstacle to receiving quality healthcare, and the resources you’ve shared, such as the Language Identification Tool Poster and the in-person helpers directory, are valuable tools for immigrants navigating the healthcare system.

    Moreover, your mention of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in transmitting essential public health information to immigrant populations, underscores the importance of clear and accessible communication during crises. The videos from Valleywise Health Medical Center serve as an excellent example of how to address this issue, and your call for similar resources to be made readily available is a critical suggestion.

    In conclusion, your article not only highlights the challenges but also offers solutions and resources to improve healthcare access for immigrants. Your dedication to this cause is evident, and your work is a valuable resource for both immigrant communities and those seeking to support them.

    Thank you for your tireless efforts in addressing this crucial issue, and we look forward to reading more of your insightful articles in the future.

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