Despite Health Reform, Undocumented Families Still Struggle to Get Care

Undocumented families in California live in fear of deportation, which affects their ability to get health care, a new report highlights.

The report, released today by the Greenlining Institute, focuses on the problems undocumented boys and men of color have accessing health care. This demographic group hasn’t been well studied, the researchers said.

“Hundreds of thousands of undocumented boys and men of color live in California, but policymakers know way too little about their lives and circumstances,” lead author Erika Cabato said in a release. “These are our neighbors, classmates and coworkers, and we need to understand their struggles and make sure they have the opportunities and resources to succeed.”

State and federal health reforms have expanded insurance coverage to many Californians in the past five years. Beginning Monday, all low-income children in the state, regardless of immigration status, can get coverage through Medi-Cal.

But undocumented adults remain largely ineligible for health coverage.

For this group, getting treatment can mean going into debt, as has been the case for one of the young men researchers interviewed. The college student shattered his knee during his freshman year. His health care bill “was over $30,000 and that was ridiculous for someone like me — an 18-year-old in college with nothing,” he told researchers.

The bill went to collections and he is still paying for the hospital expenses two years later.

Researchers interviewed 14 undocumented young adults who were either Latino or Korean and were living in the Bay Area, Central Valley, Los Angeles and San Diego.

The report suggests that policy makers further expand health coverage, make immigration reforms and work to combat racism.

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