This is the fifth article in our series outlining the results of and intended follow up steps to each of the breakout sessions from Long Island Wins’ highly successful summit on immigration, Long Island at a Turning Point—It’s Everyone’s Opportunity.
Our summit, which took place on Feb. 26 at Hofstra University, included a breakout session on health care for immigrants, which was co-facilitated by Dr. Corinne Kyriacou, director of Master of Public Health Program, Hofstra University, and Alexandra Sanjuan, Long Island healthcare coordinator for Make the Road NY.
The health care session was one of seven tasked with developing action steps to make the most of the opportunities that President Obama’s administrative relief program would bring to Long Island and to help shape the future of immigrant integration and inclusion in our region.
Attendees noted that while there is a rise in emphasis among health care providers on the unique needs of immigrant populations, many Americans falsely believe this care has negative economic consequences. These types of false notions have severe political, cultural, and public policy consequences for both undocumented immigrants and the American people.
Also discussed was Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA), which includes many provisions that inadvertently cause cultural conflicts. For example, many immigrants don’t understand why insurance is mandated, or believe that it is rude to question medical professionals. These can lead to confusion and other challenges in providing necessary care.
In addition, many health care providers are unaware of the mental health and counseling needs of families that have been torn apart by deported family members.
The actions steps for the session were as follows:
Outreach. The group emphasized the need to leverage trusted community members to build relationships. The goal of this outreach is to bridge cultural understanding, gather community input, and build public awareness of programs and rights. Faith-based programs were identified as a good starting place.
Advocacy. Programs to be advocated for include municipal IDs on Long Island, increased cultural proficiency training for health care providers, expansion of Medicaid to include undocumented immigrants, improved language access programs, and free or low-cost transportation from areas of high immigrant populations to health care facilities.
Comprehensiveness of Services. Too many health plans lack coverage for mental health needs. Again, language access programs need to be developed so that children are not required to interpret for their parents. This is particularly important when it comes to the health care needs of the children themselves.