myAMPHS Open Access: Giving NYC Undocumented Immigrants a Fair Chance at Healthcare after the Affordable Care Act

By: Latesha Richards, Director of Marketing & Sales, AMPHS

After the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been upheld, the healthcare insurance coverage status for undocumented immigrants still remains, for the most part, unaffected by ACA.  AMPHS hopes to give New York City’s undocumented immigrants a fair shot at receiving the healthcare services and insurance coverage, through myAMPHS Open Access, that many Americans will now receive as a result of ACA.

Just before summer recess in late June of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law and ruled that the ACA is constitutional.  Under the ACA, approximately 34 million people who did not have coverage will now have the opportunity to get insurance and preventative services such as breast cancer, diabetes, hypertension screenings and vaccinations free of charge.  The ACA is currently in place, and some provisions are in effect such as preventative services and care for women.  

Starting this year until 2014, states will have healthcare exchanges in place – online public marketplaces where insurers can sell products at competitive prices and Americans can shop for products for themselves and their families with the help from general assistors, intermediaries and insurance brokers.  Some individuals and families will be able to purchase healthcare insurance on their own, and other will be relying on federal subsidies.  Without a doubt, the ACA is a step in the right direction, but the law still doesn’t cover everyone.

Undocumented Immigrants Still Not Covered

Although many Americans who weren’t covered before will now be covered, not all 313 million people living in the U.S. will be covered.  There is a group that will still remain, for the most part, uninsured: undocumented immigrants.

New York City’s Healthcare Condition

New York State has already opted in to the Medicaid expansion option that the law provides.  Fortunately for those of us who live in New York state, Medicaid will be expanded to cover those individuals and families with incomes that fall below 133%-400% of the federal poverty line.  

A group of individuals left out of the mix are undocumented immigrants.  About 11.5 million immigrants were living in the U.S.; in 2011 approximately between 625,000 of them live in New York City alone.  Undocumented immigrants in the U.S. are eligible to receive care in emergency situations, but like the very poor Americans, they are ineligible to receive any government or state-funded insurance, like Medicare and Medicaid.  They are eligible to receive private insurance through their jobs, but for those who are unemployed, the rising costs of private insurance makes nearly impossible to afford it.  Preventative medical services are not covered for undocumented immigrants under the law.  They are also ineligible to shop on the state health exchanges when they are implemented.

Though a good start to facing the country’s healthcare challenges, this law is still not quite the universal healthcare that exists in places such as Canada and Europe.  That’s where Academy of Medical and Public Health Services (AMPHS) comes in.

AMPHS’ Relevance in New York City

Academy of Medical and Public Health Services (AMPHS), a Brooklyn, NY based non-profit healthcare services organization has opened its doors since 2010 to Sunset Park residents.  Sunset Park residents are largely Hispanic/Latino immigrants (approx 50% of the neighborhood’s population) and Asian (25%).  Residents in the neighborhood are living below the poverty level, have menial-income jobs, and are not well-educated.  Sunset Park’s poverty rate is higher than that of Brooklyn (22%) and New York City as a whole (18%), according to a 2008 report by the Center for Family Life in Sunset Park.  Because of their poverty status, residents are less likely to have healthcare insurance and less likely to see a doctor.  Moreover, as many immigrants are undocumented, they face challenges with the legal system that prevents them from getting the care they need.

As a healthcare intermediary, AMPHS seeks to provide the preventative care services that is missing in this community.  Through preventative services such as blood pressure, visual care, memory and cognition, mammography and HIV screenings, AMPHS provides the basic medical and public health services not readily accessible to the very poor and undocumented immigrants living in the neighborhood.

 Open Access Program for Undocumented Immigrants

To address the lack of access to care for undocumented immigrants, AMPHS has created it’s myAMPHS Open Access Program under its myAMPHS Community Membership Program.  Launching late 2012, Open Access aims to address the barriers of undocumented immigrants to access healthcare by bringing together resources currently in place into one streamlined, comprehensive program.

Through the program, Open Access members will receive access to all preventative care services offered within the organization.  Based on each individual health situation, determinations about further medical care will be made.  Undocumented immigrants may be eligible to receive: Permanent Residence Under Color of Law (PRUCOL) status, New York State Medicaid for Emergency Care, Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) / Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation (COBRA) Act, NYC Health and Hospital Corporation (HHC) assistance, Pre-natal Care Assistance Program & Family Planning Extension Program, and free and low cost clinics.  AMPHS caseworkers will be assigned to each Open Access member, and ongoing relationships and support will be established.

AMPHS will provide Open Access Members:

  • Public community workshops and seminars on health access, health reform, healthy lifestyles, and AMPHS services
  • Individual consultations with AMPHS caseworkers to develop a customized plan and portfolio of services tailored to the individual
  • Prescription Assistance by means of Big Apple Rx cards and referrals to other assistance centers
  • Regular health screenings and wellness check-ups to ensure continuous healthy medical status, lifestyle, and compliance with medical care directions and medications, etc.

AMPHS’ President & CEO Hewett Chiu, commented on the impact that the program will have in the Sunset Park community and beyond.  He said,

“This innovative program is truly needed, especially today.  This is one of the very rare programs in the Sunset Park, or even the Brooklyn community that aims to bring together a string of resources targeted to filling in the gaps of where health reform leaves off.  With actively promoting health & wellbeing for those who need it most, Sunset Park will become an overall safer place with fewer disparities, becoming one less “statistic” against other neighborhoods.  Hopefully, within the next few years, we are able to improve the collection of resources and services available within the program, create customized health and wellbeing solutions for individual communities, and expand the program to other neighborhoods in Brooklyn.”

AMPHS hopes that through the Open Access program, anyone and everyone without regard to race, ethnicity, culture, religion, economic or legal status will be given the opportunity to access affordable healthcare.  Open Access will be launched later this year at which time undocumented immigrants can sign up for the program.

References:

  1. Healthcare That Works for Americans; White House.gov Website.  Available at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/healthreform/healthcare-overview. Accessed on August 4, 2012.
  2. Preston, J. Illegal Immigrants Number 11.5 Million;  New York Times Online Website. Published March 24, 2012.  Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/24/us/illegal-immigrants-number-11-5-million.html. Accessed on August 4, 2012.
  3. Harbarger, M. New York gets more than $600 million in taxes from illegal immigrants; Capital Confidential Blog.  Posted on April 19, 2011. Available at: http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/64570/new-york-gets-more-than-600-million-from-illegal-immigrants/. Accessed on August 4, 2012.
  4. Center for Family Life in Sunset Park Progress Report. 2008.  Center for Family Life in Sunset Park Website.  Available at: http://www.cflsp.org/pdfs/CFL_ProgressReport08_Final.pdf. Accessed on August 4, 2012.
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