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“Overcoming Barriers to Health Care Accessibility for Undocumented Immigrants”

Author: Arlene Amaya

Department: UIC Institute for Policy & Civic Engagement

Advisor: Dr. Joseph K. Hoereth, IPCE

Abstract: This study seeks to understand if healthcare legislation designed to address the needs of uninsured individuals also facilitates access to medical care for uninsured undocumented immigrants. To investigate this question, this research conducts a literature review of undocumented immigrants and access to healthcare programs as well as undertakes a legislative analysis of strengths and weaknesses of healthcare screening acts in the states of Vermont, New Mexico, and Colorado. The findings of this study comprise a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses between these legislations. Similarities of the strengths include; differing forms of accountability measures, disclosure of hospital charity care, translation, and accessibility for non-English speakers, right to action to sue Hospitals, and inability to send patients to collections without screening. Some weaknesses that can be found in states are, lack of explicit ways to ensure accessibility to undocumented immigrants, minimal or no direct oversight for third party contractors, and the lack of numerical accountability written into legislation for hospitals. The main implication of this research is that specific attention to the undocumented community would enhance legislation directed at uninsured individuals. This research recommends a federal level healthcare reform bill that encompasses the strengths presented in these similar legislations and includes disclosure to undocumented uninsured individuals of their healthcare rights regardless of public charge. In addition, this study recommends the requirement to facilitate services in multiple languages and assist in the outreach and enrollment in government provided Medicare, Medicaid, and charity care.

Keywords: immigrant, undocumented, public charge, healthcare, Medicare, Medicaid, healthcare access, Legislation, undocumented immigrant, policy recommendation, hospitals, uninsured