Ongoing Support Resources
Immigration and Healthcare

Immigration & Healthcare

This section is aimed at highlighting aspects of the very complex world of immigration in the U.S. and identifying some of the services and supports that may be available. It is intended for general informational purposes only and is not legal advice. You should consult an attorney specializing in immigration to advise you on how U.S. immigration laws may impact you and your family, given your individual circumstances. Since program information, interpretation and eligibility requirements may change, we provide you with links to key organizations that may be able to help you.

Cincinnati Children's provides general information to help families and health care providers identify sources of support available to immigrants.

A number of reasons have been identified as to why immigrants do not automatically seek traditional healthcare services. These often include:

  • Cost of healthcare
  • Lack of bilingual care
  • Significant waiting periods before being seen in a clinic
  • Transportation difficulties
  • Inability to leave work
  • Discrimination
  • Fear of receiving aid and its potential effect on citizenship status

The National Immigration Law Center has comprehensive information public benefits and federal eligibility guidelines.

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:

Health Care

The following health care services have their own financial eligibility requirements based on your income.

  • Medicaid

    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:

    • A child with a lung disease cannot get coverage until there is a sudden onset of a medical emergency. Routine, preventative and follow-up care are not covered.
    • Labor and delivery for pregnant women are covered but prenatal and postpartum care are not. However, if there are pregnancy complications, the cost of care will be covered.

    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.

  • Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA)

    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.

  • Babies Milk Fund Pediatric Carein Norwood can provide health care services on a sliding fee scale. You can reach them at 513-281-8000.
  • Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) can provide health services for patients based on family income and medical need:
  • Vaccinations (may not include all vaccines currently recommended).
  • Testing for and treatment of symptoms of communicable diseases.
  • Community programs and services necessary for basic health and safety, including treatment of mental illness or substance abuse, crisis counseling, child and adult protective services, violence and abuse prevention programs or victim assistance.
  • General and Community Pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's:


  • Soup kitchens and food banks do not have financial eligibility requirements.

Non-Medical Emergencies / Disasters

  • Assistance during periods of hot, cold or other adverse weather conditions.
  • Short-term emergency disaster relief services.
  • Short-term shelter or housing assistance for the homeless, for victims of domestic violence or for runaway, abused or abandoned children.
  • Emergency services including police, fire, shelter or ambulance that are provided because there is an emergency situation such as health or safety at risk or a crime committed.


  • All children, regardless of legal status, have a right to equal access to K-12 public school programs.

Nongovernment Assistance

  • Private, religious and local resources often do not have restrictions based on immigration status but may have their own individual requirements.

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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