Hospitals in the United States are required to provide emergency care regardless of immigration status. But beyond emergencies, the availability, rules and risks of health care for noncitizens, legal and illegal, vary widely around the country.
One source of information is maintained by the National Immigration Law Center, an advocacy organization, at nilc.org/immspbs/index.htm.
Another resource is free community clinics that rely on donations and volunteers, not government reimbursement, and treat people regardless of immigration status. For a list, Bonnie A. Beavers, executive director of the National Association of Free Clinics, pointed to uniteforsight.org/freeclinics.php.
What noncitizens often have to fear most is fear itself, say advocacy groups like Make the Road by Walking, a Brooklyn organization that has emboldened its immigrant members to demand from health care providers the interpretation services they are due under federal law.
Over the last four years, even as the legislative climate has turned more hostile, the group and its allies have waged a strategic campaign of civil rights complaints, patient surveys and political pressure to improve the interpreter services provided at four New York hospitals.
Altagracia Alfonso, a Dominican immigrant with cancer who worked on the campaign, said that before November, she had to ask her adult children what doctors at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital were saying. Now, a Spanish-speaking nurse helps with her chemotherapy. ”It’s a huge difference,” she said. ”I’m very grateful.”
(This piece was published as a companion sidebar to a lengthy Times front page feature on immigrant healthcare.)