WHAT’S UP DOC?
Even Undocumented Immigrants
Are Eligible For Public Health Programs
Queens Hospital Center is the borough’s second public hospital, and is located in Jamaica. Tribune photos by Ira Cohen
By Ellen Thompson
It was once said that as long as you have the essentials: food, clothes and shelter, you could survive anywhere, even in America. Today though, that might not be the case. As Americans are becoming progressively more health conscious and healthcare costs are increasing, immigrants are placing healthcare plans on the list of necessities.
Luckily, for new immigrants in Queens the city is prepared to help them through the process of obtaining a plan or emergency healthcare if needed.
What Are Your Options?
While documented and non-documented immigrants may not have the same options to choose from, they still have a chance to find a plan or resource that will keep them in good health.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says that each year documented new immigrants and immigrant families living on low incomes take advantage of the federal sponsored, state administered program Medicaid. The program usually sends payments directly to healthcare providers for services such as medications, doctor and dental visits, lab tests, medical procedures and nursing home services, but depending on the extent of coverage some recipients have to pay a small part of the costs.
For those who lack documentation but are in need of a doctor’s attention or a dentist to remove a painful wisdom tooth there is the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation Options Program. The program, which helps people pay their medical bills and apply for public health insurance, is not to be mistaken for an actual insurance product HHC says. HHC provides enrollment assistance to public health insurance for documented individuals and a sliding scale fee for undocumented individuals, depending on the patient’s income, family size and assets. Financial counseling related to payment and insurance options is also available through the Options program.
Aware that many of the immigrant patients may have concerns and fears, HHC staff is trained in various languages and aims to respect and protect the privacy of all patients. Additionally, much of HHC’s information including many forms available at Elmhurst Hospital Center, Queens Hospital Center in Jamaica, long-term care facilities and diagnostic and treatment centers has also been translated into languages spoken in Queens’ immigrant communities.
Concerned for the health of undocumented immigrants with specific medical needs, the City has also developed specialized resources. Pregnant women have the choice of receiving the Prenatal Care Assistance Program, a comprehensive prenatal care program that offers complete pregnancy care and other health services to women and teens, and children are eligible for Child Health Plus, New York State’s health insurance plan for kids. And in an emergency, undocumented patients are eligible for a special Medicaid program.
Elmhurst Hospital provides services in Western Queens. Tribune photos by Ira Cohen
Are you eligible?
Now that you know what the options are, the next step is determining what resources you, as a new, old, documented or undocumented immigrant are eligible for and what proofs you’ll need in hand.
In the case of Medicaid as a general rule, only “qualified aliens” may be eligible for coverage, CMS says. In addition, some immigrants cannot be eligible for coverage for five years from the date they enter the country as a qualified alien. The income and resources of the immigrant must be evaluated to determine their eligibility as well.
For those undocumented immigrants interested in the HHC Options Program, they will first need to meet with a Financial Counselor at an HHC hospital or clinic with proof of identity and date of birth such as a birth certificate, proof of home address in the form of a I.D. or a letter or bill sent to them and proof of income, such as a copy of check or stubs or written statement to apply for services.
Every HHC patient with income below 400 percent of the federal poverty level is eligible for some kind of financial assistance regardless of immigration status, HHC says. For example, a family of three earning up to $64,360 a year is eligible for the sliding fee scale, documented or undocumented.
Unfortunately, emergencies occur and they don’t discriminate. However, if you are an undocumented alien you wont have to fear being ignored by emergency personal in a time of need. Since undocumented immigrants are unable to provide documentation of immigration status, Emergency Medicaid is offered only for the treatment of an emergency medical condition. Other services offered through Medicaid that do not call for forms of proof are Child Health Plus (as long as the child is under age 19) and PCAP, reserved for pregnant women who are living below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, CMS says.
Sign Me Up
Enrolling in Medicaid, HHC Options and other healthcare resources offered is as easy as dialing 311 and asking for the HRA Medicaid helpline or stopping by a local hospital, community-based organization or Medical Assistance Program Office to ask for assistance with filing out applications.
Enrollment counselors are on hand at Medical Assistance Program Medicaid Offices in Rockaway, Jamaica and Elmhurst Hospital to explain the enrollment process to immigrants. Safe Space, a community-based organization, also has enrollment counselors stationed in their offices to serve curious immigrants throughout Queens. New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Clinics – the Charles Drew Center in Jamaica and Corona Health Center in Jackson Heights – offer informational sessions on health resources as well.
For more information on eligibility and enrollment in a Medicaid, Child Health Plus and Family Health Plus, call HealthStat toll-free at (888) NYC-6116 (English, Spanish, Chinese, Russian and Haitian-Creole).
You can also reach the Elmhurst Hospital Center Financial Counseling at (718) 334-2565, Queens Hospital Center Registration at (718) 883-6702/6705, Safe Space at (718) 205-9294 or the Charles Drew Center at (718) 883-6500.