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A number of reasons have been identified as to why immigrants do not automatically seek traditional healthcare services. These often include:
The National Immigration Law Center has comprehensive information public benefits and federal eligibility guidelines for immigrants:
There is often confusion about eligibility for benefits because of the complex immigration and welfare laws and differences in various state programs. As a result, many eligible immigrants have assumed that they should not seek any services and many agencies have mistakenly turned away eligible immigrants. In general, if the service is provided to the whole community in order to protect life and safety, then it should be provided without anyone asking about immigration or citizenship status. These can include:
The following health care services have their own financial eligibility requirements based on your income.
Emergency medical services provided to any person, regardless of immigration status, may be covered under state Medicaid programs. Specific program requirements may vary from state to state. Generally, the individual must meet certain Medicaid financial requirements and may not have other sources of coverage, such as private health insurance. Alien Emergency Medical Assistance (AEMA) is a category of Medicaid that provides coverage for treatment of an emergency medical condition for non-citizens. The condition must be so severe that a lack of medical attention could be expected to result in placing the patient's health in serious jeopardy. Emergency Medicaid only pays for emergencies and not for treatment of chronic, life-threatening conditions. Examples can include:
The emergency treatment cannot last longer than 90 days. There is no a limit on the number of times that a person can apply for and receive Emergency Medicaid. However, Medicaid coverage for emergency services is not approved in advance. The request for coverage must be made after the emergency but within three months of the date of the emergency. It is then reviewed by state panels who apply the state's rules to determine if coverage will be provided.
Hospitals cannot deny anyone certain emergency medical services based on the person's ability to pay. EMTALA, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, requires hospitals to provide screening, and, if necessary and within the family's means, stabilization to anyone coming to the hospital's emergency department with an emergency medical condition.
Private health insurance may be available through an employer or through the purchase of a health insurance policy.
You have the right to an interpreter if you have difficulty speaking or understanding English, regardless of your immigration status. The cost of the interpreter should be paid by the hospital or agency.
International adoptions can be a more complicated process than U.S. adoptions, with additional paperwork, waiting lists, health concerns and foreign country laws. It is important to learn about the health care benefits that may be available to your child in an international adoption. The International Adoption Center at Cincinnati Children's provides information and resources to support your interest adopting a child from another country.
Immigration law has a number of technical terms that can be confusing. Glossaries have been published by several organizations:
In spite of very specific legal guidelines, immigration laws may be prone to contradictory interpretations. We encourage families and professionals to use this section on immigration and health care as an overview and guide and then seek additional information from immigration lawyers, local organizations, government programs and reliable web sites. We have included some helpful resources:
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