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Health Care Reform Six Months Later: What Does It Mean for Immigrants?


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Press Contact: Thanu Yakupitiyage ,  Main Phone: 212-627-2227 x235, 
(Tuesday, October 12, 2010)

Health Care Reform Six Months Later: What Does It Mean for Immigrants?

NEW YORK- Six months since the historic passage of health care reform, several important changes in private health insurance have now gone into effect, improving access to affordable and quality health insurance for many New Yorkers, including immigrants. But without adequate community education about those changes, immigrant communities face significant barriers to leveraging health reform to ensure greater access and coverage. The New York Immigration Coalition and its diverse community partners that make up the NYIC’s Immigrant Health Access and Advocacy Collaborative discussed the impact of these changes on immigrant communities, the importance of making information available to immigrant communities, and the outreach campaign the collaborative is launching to provide immigrant communities with the information they need to navigate the health care system and the changes resulting from reform.

“It’s a complicated law to change a complicated health care system,” said Jenny Rejeske, Director of Health Advocacy at the New York Immigration Coalition, “and the vitriol that has been aimed at immigrants—who already face unique barriers to health care and health insurance—has only made it more confusing. More than ever, there’s a need in immigrant communities for good information, and that information will best be conveyed by trusted sources within the community, who speak their language and understand their culture."

Ms. Rejeske reported on changes in private health insurance that have already gone into effect. The NY Bridge Plan, for example is, a new insurance plan offering more affordable coverage for individuals with a broad range of chronic or serious medical conditions. It will cost $421 per month.

To be eligible for the NY Bridge Plan, you must be:
o Uninsured for at least 6 months;
o A citizen or legal immigrant
o Have a qualifying medical condition

The Collaborative launched the Immigrants and Health Care Reform Outreach & Education Campaign to inform immigrant New Yorkers about the options for affordable health care that exist right now, and to alleviate immigrants’ unique fears and concerns about using health care and insurance. Eunjee Shin, Coordinator of the Division of Social Services at Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York, which conducted a survey of immigrants in the Korean Community to find out how much they knew about health reform, found shocking results. Ms. Shin says, “Seventy percent of participants didn’t know what to expect from the changes. There is a dire need for an education campaign that will include our communities and inform them of the impacts as these changes go into effect.”

Mirna Cortes, Director of Community Development at Central American Refugee Center, says that there is a lot of confusion in immigrant communities about how the reforms affect them. “In some communities people are not concerned about the reform, because they don’t have regular incomes. For them, the main question is still – Can I at all afford to see a doctor? For those clients, our message is to us HHC options, Financial Assistance, Charity Care...These programs are there regardless of their immigration status or ability to pay.”

Ayaz Ahmed, Director of Health Services at South Asian Council for Social Services, says, “A lot of immigrants who will benefit from health care reform don’t know that they do. Many of our clients are going to be saving a lot of money. This is why is it important for there to be informed community advocates who can relay these changes to their respective communities in culturally and linguistically accessible ways.”

A report released in February of this year by New Yorkers for Accessible Health Coverage and the New York Immigration Coalition outlined several obstacles to immigrant access to health care, including language barriers and concerns about individuals’ immigration status. It was found that immigrants are much less likely to have health insurance, much less likely to go to the doctor, more likely to delay care until it’s an emergency, and more likely to seek alternative care. As health care reform goes into effect, this is an opportunity to include immigrant communities by providing adequate information to understand how health care reform affects them. Additionally, the Collaborative emphasizes the need for continued advocacy to ensure that New York implements the new law in a way that benefits all New Yorkers.





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