Undocumented Immigrants

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New Bill Would Extend Health Coverage to Undocumented Immigrants

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Anna Gorman, Kaiser Health News

In a push to cover immigrants excluded from the nation’s health reform law, a California state senator has proposed legislation that would offer health insurance for all Californians, including those living here illegally.

The bill, SB 1005, would extend state-funded Medi-Cal to low-income immigrants who, because they are in the country without permission, are now eligible only for emergency and pregnancy coverage. It would also create a marketplace similar to Covered California to offer insurance policies to higher income immigrants who lack legal status.

It’s not clear how much the new coverage would cost or how the state would fund it.

Sen. Ricardo Lara, a Democrat who represents Long Beach and southeast Los Angeles, announced the proposed legislation at a press conference Friday. He said immigrants contribute to the California economy and deserve to have access to health insurance. Continue reading

For Immigrants, Language and Knowledge are Barriers in Obamacare Enrollment

Covered California opened for enrollment Tuesday morning. (Lisa Aliferis/KQED)

Covered California opened for enrollment Tuesday morning. (Lisa Aliferis/KQED)

By Anna Gorman, Kaiser Health News

Carrying Spanish-language brochures, outreach worker Sandra Pena walked around a crowded health clinic in Bell Gardens in Southern California early Tuesday morning.

“Have you heard of the program Obamacare?” Pena asked a group of patients. A few nodded. Others stared blankly.

As enrollment began around the nation, the scene at this Wesley Health Center underscored one of the major challenges facing officials – overcoming the lack of awareness.

Some had never heard of the new law and few knew that Oct. 1 was the first day of enrollment.

Nearly all of the patients in the crowded waiting room were Latino, including several first-generation immigrants. Some had never heard of the new law and few knew that Oct. 1 was the first day of enrollment.

“There are tons of people who don’t know what’s going on today,” said Valerie Lopez, an outreach worker at the center.

Pena explained to the patients at the health center that starting Tuesday, they could sign up for new health coverage that would begin Jan. 1. Depending on their income, they would either qualify for free insurance through Medicaid (called Medi-Cal here) or for discounted private insurance through Covered California, the state’s online health insurance marketplace. And she warned about the penalty that most people who don’t have insurance would face in 2014.

The patients asked many questions: Do I have to pay a fine if I am not working? Do I still qualify for Medi-Cal if I own a home? Are there people to help me fill out the application? Pena didn’t know all the answers, but she said people would be available soon to help with enrollment. There was no one at the center who could actually help people enroll. They are still being trained. Continue reading

Study Finds Surprising Outcomes for Undocumented HIV Patients

By Mina Kim

(gernhaex/Flickr)

(gernhaex/Flickr)

While there hasn’t been much research into how well undocumented Hispanic immigrants do if they are infected with HIV,  a small study from researchers at Baylor adds to what’s known — and found some surprising results.

In the retrospective study researchers reviewed the cases of 1,620 HIV-positive adults at a clinic in Houston. Researchers looked at patients’ health one year after they started HIV treatment and compared between groups — African American, white, Hispanic — with undocumented Hispanics reviewed in a separate category.

“What we found was, though they entered care with more advanced HIV,” said lead researcher Thomas Giordano in reference to the undocumented Hispanics, “actually when we looked at their outcomes they did as well, if not better, than the other groups in the study.”

Giordano says the study did not look specifically at why this might be happening, but did recount what is known about undocumented immigrants and overall health status. From the study: Continue reading