Friday, September 18, 2020
Uncategorized Immigrants depend on luck for health care

Immigrants depend on luck for health care


New study shows ‘how unjust and unethical the system is’


By Viji Sundaram

MARCH 24, 2015  – Undocumented immigrants’ ability to stay healthy might come down to a matter of luck.

That’s one of the findings that emerged from a study released this week by The Greenlining Institute, a national research and advocacy organization.

Prohibitive costs, language barriers, fear of outing themselves as undocumented, and a perceived lack of cultural competency among health care providers were among the reasons undocumented immigrants gave for not seeking timely medical care when they fell sick.

Those who managed to stay healthy said it was purely because of luck, a remark that should make Americans cringe, given that the United States has one of the most advanced health care systems in the world, said Anthony Galace, a fellow at Greenlining and the report’s author.

“This notion of luck just shows how unjust and unethical the system is,” Galace said. “I believe that as a state we can all be healthy, and the only way we can be healthy is if we are all given easy access to health care.”

For the study, Galace interviewed 13 undocumented immigrants from difference ethnicities – four Mexican, two Salvadoran, two Korean, one Vietnamese, one Chinese, one Nigerian and two Filipino – all between 18 and 52 years, living in California and from low-income backgrounds.

Some interviewees said that they resorted to such home remedies as lemon and honey and over-the-counter medications when they got sick. One woman said she once endured stomach pains for as long as she could and went to the ER only when the pain became “unbearable.” Doctors were able to save her life even though she had checked in with significant internal bleeding.

Another study participant said that on more than one occasion, doctors turned his sister away because they couldn’t understand her or her parents “and it was hard for me to translate.”

Youngsters Galace spoke to said that having student health insurance “made a significant difference in their lives.” Some, on the threshold of graduation, said they were concerned about going without health insurance once again. As one student put it: “If I (get) sick after my student health insurance expires, I would have no way to pay for it.”

Many of the younger interviewees said the struggle their families went through living without health insurance has led them to consider health care professions. They said it has also inspired them to campaign for such bills as SB 4, the Health For All bill sponsored by Sen. Lara Ricardo, D-Bell Gardens, that would provide access to health insurance for everyone, including undocumented immigrants who are left out of the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Nearly 7 million of the nation’s 11 million undocumented people who were barred from the ACA lived in California at the time of its passage. But thanks to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — President Obama’s 2012 initiative that temporarily suspended the deportation of young people residing unlawfully in the United States who were brought to the country as children – around 125,000 of them became immediately eligible for the state-funded health insurance program for low-income people, Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid). Even so, some 1.5 million undocumented people in the state continue to be uninsured.

Even if the courts overturn a challenge to Obama’s 2014 executive action to expand DACA, as well as provide parents of lawful permanent residents and citizens employment authorization for three years under a program called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), the majority of the 5 million or so who will benefit won’t have access to health insurance. But those living in California will have a shot at getting health insurance through Lara’s bill.

The bill would give all Californians access to state-funded Medi-Cal and set up a marketplace similar to Covered California where they could purchase insurance, but without the benefit of federal subsidies.

Lawmakers are currently finalizing the language of the bill and a funding mechanism for its implementation. It is expected to be ready for public comment in about two weeks.

This story comes from <a href=”http://www.New America”>New America Media</a>

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.


  1. At least it seems that someone finally put stronger springs in Viji’s keyboard; something I recommended back in ’94 or ’95.

  2. Viji, since (I’m assuming) that you are from the Indian sub-continent, let me ask you this. Suppose I, as a white male American national, entered India illegally, decided to live there in direct violation of your national laws, and made zero effort to learn your language.

    Would you expect my outcomes, whether in health or anything else, to be commensurate with your fellow countrymen who followed all the rules, paid their taxes, knew the language and fully immersed themselves in your nation rather than living there in some kind of splendid isolation?

    • American agribusiness needs labor and would face huge labor shortages without illegals. Since these workers getsick, the richest country in the world is obliged to treat them when they fallill. The labor brokers and ag companies should be paying for this. But sincethey refuse to do so, the state has to step in.

      That is the reality. Would you rather they die? I know you would rather
      they returned home, but then your salad would rot on the stem. The next time
      you eat a waffles at a restaurant, you will have to go into the kitchen and
      wash your plate all by yourself.

      A new bracero system would be best. But until that happens, we are morally
      obliged to provide minimal healthcare services for illegals.

      If you are outraged about this:
      Blame big agribusiness (the biggest corporate welfare mongers in the USA,
      judging from the massive 5-year “farm aid” bill passed in congress
      last year).

      • He’s just trolling. It shouldn’t matter what another country does. The only thing that matters is what is the right thing to do.

        His question is ridiculous. He’s asking about a country that only able to spend 1.5% of what the US spends per capita on health care.

        But the real racist/troll is revealed in his ‘made zero effort to learn your language.’ Because we all know that in the abusive poultry factories and in the strawberry fields there are classrooms and textbooks to learn English, right?

        MisterEllis isn’t a person. No, he is a disgusting stereotype.

      • No, the article raised the question of language, saying that disadvantaged people who don’t know how to speak English suffer worse outcomes (which of course is true everywhere).

        It is not “racist” to want our immigration laws enforced. And in fact I know two illegals who are white, and I don’t think they should be treated any different.

    • LOL white people do that all the time – they’re called “ex-pats” and we celebrate them in our greatest literature and art.

      • I only need to know enough; not so much in this case, evidently.

        Anyway, as noted, this is a citizenship and legality issue and not a race issue.

      • Gary, marke was talking about (white, for some reason) American nationals working overseas. Some of them may be illegals but the vast majority live and work there on work visas.

        Many non-Americans are here on the same basis, e.g. H1-B visas (professional/technical), J-1 (student exchange) or L-1 (intra-company assignments), or green cards.

        The context of this article is illegals working in the US, which number in the millions rather than the odd american who is illegally living overseas.

        And, as noted, race has nothing to with it. There are non-white legals and white illegals. Marke was just mischievously playing a race card.

      • I have met hundreds of expats overseas. Most were white Americans or Brits. Very few were legal. You don’t know what you are talking about.

      • If some of those ex-pats were non-white, which you appear to admit, then I’m not sure why you are dragging race into this.

        I have also known hundreds and I am fairly sure none of them were illegals.

        Please supply examples to make your case.

      • Cut the shit, Sam. You were the first person to use the word “race” on this whole page. As usual.

      • No, it was Marke who first introduced race, by suggesting that US expats were “white”.

        I pointed out that there are white illegals and non-white legals, so my points were race-neutral.

  3. Viji, this is a good post. I fully support healthcare for all Californians.

    What I discovered over the years is that in order to get widespread support for something that is so easy for the Republicans, conservatives and libertarians to kill with a soundbite, we need to demonstrate how it is in the best interests of everyone to support healthcare for all Californians, regardless of legal status.

    One easy way to do that is to compare the cost of someone having health insurance to the costs of someone getting all of their healthcare in the emergency room. I believe there is good data showing this, comparing the cost of a child with asthma who is being seen by a physician compared to those without, and go the the ER when they cannot breathe.

    • It’s not what I would aim for. It still looks like you’re presenting it as the lesser evil of two options, and still allowing that illegal immigrants are a net evil to American society. I would like to see an emphasis on basic fairness: the people who keep food prices low for everyone, the people who keep houses cleaned and take care of babies, should not have to fear dying of easily preventable causes.
      It’s still a hard sell to people who have a negative gut reaction to the words “illegal immigrant”, but I think arguing for fairness is more honest and more effective than just arguing for a better bottom line for everyone else.

      • For me, it is a moral issue of fairness, human rights, etc. But thinking that everyone has the same level of empathy is how we lose the argument every time.

        Making it about bottom line is very effective.

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