by Agueda Pacheco Flores
Undocumented immigrants were ineligible for state health insurance, but now Washington has opened its health insurance marketplace to potentially more than 105,000 undocumented people.
Earlier this month, Washington’s insurance marketplace Healthplanfinder, which allows residents to buy affordable health insurance, opened to immigrants regardless of their legal status. The move is made possible thanks to the 1332 Innovation Waiver submitted by Gov. Jay Inslee to the federal government in late 2022.
According to the Migration Policy Institute, approximately 249,000 undocumented people live in Washington, including about 119,000 undocumented residents without health insurance coverage. The state estimates that approximately 105,000 people, currently ineligible due to federal restrictions, will be able to buy coverage on Washington Healthplanfinder in 2024.
A 1332 waiver, named under Section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), is permission from the federal government for a state to develop an innovative approach to providing health insurance, according to the 1332 Innovation Waiver document. The waiver is said to aim to improve health equity by expanding access to insurance for undocumented people, who are more than five times more likely to be uninsured than US citizens.
Brisa Guajardo is the Community Outreach Manager with Washington Community Health Plan. She works directly with the Latino community, educating them about the new shift in politics.
The main concern and concern for this population is how this will affect future immigration status, she said, adding that people are concerned about the Department of Homeland Security’s public spending rule and it’s her job to reassure them that it won’t affect anything. . in the future. The public charge rule makes certain noncitizens ineligible to apply for a visa or adjustment of status if they are likely to become primarily dependent on government assistance.
Undocumented immigrants have until January 15, 2024 to apply. Guajardo says additional financial support is available for people who can’t afford any insurance, but those funds are limited, so she’s urging Latinos in the community to act quickly.
Before the waiver was granted, undocumented immigrants facing expensive medical treatments or emergencies had few options. They might find community health centers that offer discounts, apply for emergency medical care, or simply fall into debt.
Beyond that, options were very limited, Guajardo said. I have seen individuals who don’t actually take care of themselves. People with chronic conditions don’t have health insurance and wait until it’s too late or it gets really bad to get care, and I think this will really change the outcome for many to be able to seek preventive care without worrying about high cost bills.
Dr. Shoshana Aleinikoff is the Special Director of Refugee and Immigrant Health for HealthPoint in Des Moines. She says this change in eligibility in the healthcare market is a game changer for many of her patients. One of the root causes of the health disparities often seen in low-income Latino communities, she says, especially for those who are disproportionately diagnosed with diabetes, is their lack of access to care due to an inability to afford it.
Even the lowest escalator is costly, she said.
Aleinikoff says she doesn’t want to worry about whether her patients can afford to be seen; she wants to focus on medicine and providing care.
I have had the opportunity to speak with some of my patients that I have been seeing for several years and I could tell them that they now potentially qualify for state insurance and seeing the look on their face makes all the difference in the world.
Agueda Pacheco Flores is a journalist who focuses on Latino culture and Mexican American identity. Originally from Quertaro, Mexico, Pacheco is inspired by her own bicultural upbringing as an undocumented immigrant and proud Washingtonian.
Featured Image: Photo via Gods_Kings/Shutterstock.com, edited by the Emerald team.
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