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  • Writer's pictureLa Voz Latina

CASA advocates for immigrant rights with the Access to Care Act

Written by: Alexa Figueroa 🇸🇻 and Sophia da Silva 🇧🇷

CASA Maryland Image via El Tiempo Latino (CASA)

The battle for universal healthcare has been a debate for several years. One group of people who face a barrier to health coverage is undocumented immigrants.

In Prince Georges’s County, organizations such as CASA, the largest advocacy organization for immigrants and working families in Maryland, are advocating for The Access to Care Act which is CASA's priority health care bill.

CASA is led by immigrants who have faced the types of difficulties that they advocate for in the community. The members vote on issues that matter to them and CASA’s staff works on these policies.

“CASA believes healthcare is a human right regardless of people’s immigration status,” said CASA’s Central Maryland Communications Specialist, Gabriela Hernandez.

Ninfa Amador-Hernandez, Research and Policy Analyst for CASA, tells the story of Jeannette Kenne, a Prince George's County resident who does not have access to a health plan and has diabetes. She explains that this has affected her quality of life.

“We have stories everywhere. Unfortunately, that is the reality of the undocumented community that many people have the same stories of not being able to access health care and needing it,” said Amador-Hernandez.

A needle and a blood glucose monitoring system on a table in Brentwood, Maryland on April 7, 2023. (Alexa Figueroa)

She also says that the bill eliminates the immigration status requirement, opening up healthcare access to everyone regardless of immigration status.

“It is time for health care expansion, it is time to allow our undocumented immigrants who are already part of our communities access to health care and access to a doctor so they can be healthy,” said Jossie Flor Sapunar, the National Director of Communications for CASA “If they are part of our community and they are not healthy, the community, in general, is affected by that.

A previous version of the bill allotted funding as a type of Medicare program but that has since been amended, according to Hernandez. The bill would take away the citizenship requirement to apply for insurance through Maryland Marketplace, which would result in the coverage of over 3 hundred thousand undocumented immigrants.

As of today, undocumented immigrants are not eligible for Maryland Marketplace insurance and are expected to buy private insurance. This is not realistic for many undocumented immigrants, according to Hernandez.

She says that this results in many undocumented immigrants being uninsured and unable to receive care. For individuals, this means they can’t receive preventative care and suffer more when an emergency happens as well as being saddled with huge medical debts.

Amador-Hernandez adds that it is also harmful to the rest of us when hospitals have to cover those costs, hospitals have spent over $7 thousand 8 hundred million on emergency costs in the past couple of years.

The House passed the bill with a strong democratic vote but has been stopped in the state senate for over 3 weeks. CASA is urging movement on the bill.

Maryland already has one of the lowest uninsured rates at 6% but this bill could make it even lower, says Amador-Hernandez.

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