ICIRR Panel Focuses on Health Care Access for the Undocumented

July 9, 2015

ICIRR Panel Focuses on Health Care Access for the Undocumented

On July 8, more than 50 community leaders gathered at The Chicago Community Trust for a special event regarding immigrant access to health care. The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) was honored to bring to Chicago Nancy Berlinger, PhD Research Scholar at The Hastings Center and co-director of the Undocumented Patients Project and Dr. Ricardo Nuila, MD, from Harris County Health/Ben Taub Hospital in Houston. ICIRR's own  Health Policy Director.Luvia Quiñones, rounded out the panel.

Dr. Berlinger highlighted the special opportunities and challenges for the health care system improvement in the New York City and compared local county models that are proven or promising as sustainable ways to improve access to uninsured populations. (A recent report she coauthored with the New York Immigration Coalition is available here.)  She also shared the six actionable recommendations that were made to NY City stakeholders, supported by guidance for ongoing planning, program development, and system improvement.

Dr. Nuila discussed shared a personal story of an undocumented uninsured individual who was recently diagnosed with thyroid cancer and the importance of having the Access Care program in Harry County for all uninsured county residents. He also shared how the program provides access to discounted health care at more than 20 community clinics, a dental clinic, and surgical and other sub-specialty clinics, one long-term care facility.

Luvia discussed who are the undocumented uninsured in Cook County and lessons learned from New York City and Houston. The undocumented uninsured in Cook County represent over 56% (175,364) of the Illinois’ undocumented uninsured population. Over 60% (16 yrs or older) of these residents work full time working in industries that traditionally do not provide health coverage (i.e. manufacturing, accommodations and food services, sales and office, production and food preparation and serving related). 

ICIRR plans to continue engaging more stakeholders so together we can work towards a local policy solution for the remaining uninsured in Illinois.