The COVID-19 pandemic not only did it leave millions of economic losses in the city of New York, the closure of hundreds of businesses that did not reopen, the death, to date, of more than 40,155 people and 2,343,573 infections of which many are Latino, but also brought to the table the vulnerability that the immigrant community has in health matters. They are more unprotected than other groups of New Yorkersbecause for years they have not been able to access quality and low-cost medical care, such as it was evidenced by the coronavirus.
This was made clear again this Monday during a public hearing in the City Council of the City of New Yorkin which officials of the Administration of the Mayor Eric Adams were called to account for what is being done in the five boroughs to ensure that more immigrants can access health services and they came out safe.
The Committees on Immigration, Health, Hospitals, and the COVID Recovery and Resiliency Subcommitteecame together to discuss the pandemic’s impact on the health of immigrant New Yorkers and urged that the City, but primarily the state and federal governmentdo not leave abandoned the undocumented in access to medical care.
“Immigrants are the backbone of the city, not only contributing to the economy, paying taxes and the workforce, but they represent everything New York is supposed to be, but for decades we have seen a chronic lack equity,” he said. lynn schulman, president of Health Committee of the municipal legislative body, who added that immediate actions and investments are urgently needed.
“Immigrants are more likely to live in poverty, to be poorly educated and uninsured, which has undeniably been exacerbated by the COVID pandemic in higher levels of exposure and poverty in their health,” added the legislator. “We can no longer accept these status quo conditions, we must do more to guarantee access to health to prevent”
The Councilor Mercedes Narcissepresident of Hospitals Committeecriticized that Albany has left out of the laws approved in the budget for the next fiscal year, the Health Coverage for All bill, which would benefit thousands of undocumented immigrants, who due to their immigration status cannot acquire insurance policies.
“The need is great, and knowing that the pandemic has had a much greater impact on our immigrant communities and has exacerbated inequities, health insurance is a right,” said the councilwoman. “That is why we want to make a call to the State, so that it provides basic coverage services in a health program“.
The political leader of immigrant origin, who for years worked in the health industry, said that even though New York City’s health care program, known as “NYCcare”, that since 2019 has managed to register more than 110,000 immigrants, has been a lifesaver for many, it is not enough.
Poor and immigrants the most affected
Torian Easterling, advisory commissioner of the Office of Equity of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene of the City of New York (DOHMH), acknowledged that despite the titanic work that the program NYCCare has done to provide medical assistance to undocumented New Yorkers, this is not health insurance and much needs to be done to ensure that all New Yorkers are protected in their health.
“This pandemic has particularly affected poor and immigrant communities disproportionately, and it is essential that more tools are available and accessible to all New Yorkers, regardless of their immigration status,” said the official, who highlighted that as part of the commitment of the City for more people to join to NYC Caretranslation work has been done in more than 26 languages.
Easterling insisted on the need for Albany the federal government to provide more aid to health of immigrant communities, and warned that after the impact of COVID, the City has focused efforts on the 33 neighborhoods of the Big Apple that had the greatest impact with the pandemic, and among other things, they have already achieved that vaccination levels exceed the 70%. However, he insisted that the road is quite long and that immunization is the main key to be able to face the virus.
“The next goal is for young people under 17 to get vaccinated, because we still haven’t reached 60% vaccinated. We need to do more for that, and also for people to get their booster doses: both adults and older children, when appropriate,” the official said. “These are great challenges, but we are ready to continue lowering (the unvaccinated) 58 percent of children are vaccinated, but only 40% have received the booster dose, and it is something we must do now.”
“Everyone deserves health care”
Manuel CastroCommissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigration Affairs (MOIA), also joined the call for the State to promote health coverage for all, and warned that not having access to health insurance will cause devastation in the immigrant community. Meanwhile, he urged those who have not benefited from the NYC Care municipal medical assistance program to access it, since not only does it not require immigration requirements, but it also does not require ability to pay if patients do not have it.
“We want to make sure that more people access it in more languages; The goal is to have more access to the communities and reach the largest number of people, but at the same time it is important that there is a good relationship with the provider that cares for them, who understands what they need. Language and relationship are vital,” Castro said.
And although the official acknowledged that there has been enormous progress in health matters, because before the options were limited and very expensive, Castro reiterated that the pandemic made it clear that more steps must be taken forward.
“These barriers have been exacerbated in the pandemic disproportionately in immigrant communities; health care must be recognized as a human right. Mayor Eric Adams’ vision is clear: all New Yorkers, regardless of status and income, deserve health care,” said MOIA Commissioner.
At the end of the hearing, the City Council committees that promoted the diligence agreed that the City is making a great effort with the NYC Care program to promote the health of immigrants, but, through a resolution, they are urging the Legislature and Governor Hochul to approve and sign the law that provides coverage of health care services under the basic health program to people whose immigration status makes them ineligible for federal financial participation, which is currently in the pipeline.
Health coverage for immigrants in NYC
- 110,000 undocumented immigrants and low-income New Yorkers are receiving health care through the NYC Care program, which is not health insurance.
- 75% of them have used primary care physician services.
- 70% of NYC Care users do not use English as their primary language.
- 58% are essential workers.
- $300,000 has been invested in translation services for the program.
- An estimated 150,000 undocumented immigrants across the state have no access to health services.
- The State has not yet approved health insurance for everyone, regardless of immigration status.
- Seniors 65 and older can receive State Medicaid and pregnant women postpartum services for one year.