The U.S is the most cosmopolitan country in the world today with undocumented people constituting a larger percentage of the foreign resident population. The majority of this undocumented population is of Hispanic origin (Guadamuz et al., 2020). The undocumented are the most affected of the US population because of poor enforcement of the laws that are supposed to protect them (Guadamuz et al., 2020). Undocumented people face a lot of problems including discrimination, poor living and working conditions, the lack of information on available health care services, and the lack of support from the local and national governments.
The constant fear of deportation is one issue that affects their social, emotional, and physical well-being. As a result, they always live in the shadows looking for odd jobs which pay low wages that cannot fully support their livelihood. It also makes it hard for them to seek medical care. However, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 put forth the roles and responsibilities that employers have for undocumented workers (Ortega et al., 2018). The law protects all residents from any form of discrimination, especially at work. However, most undocumented workers do not report these cases because they are afraid of deportation.
The inability to communicate in the host country’s language is another barrier to access services from basic interactions with others, expressing themselves in the workplace, and even seeking health care services. Statistics show that patients with a narrow understanding of English are the most likely to receive poor health care (Hammig et al., 2019). This is because they cannot express themselves well, thus, making it hard for caregivers to make a diagnosis. Lack of awareness of the available services also makes it impossible for them to make decisions regarding their wellbeing.
The Healthcare industry has a moral and ethical responsibility to provide treatment for all people. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 dictates that all American citizens, and those legally residing in the country, should have health insurance. While this might sound easy, many undocumented individuals remain uninsured due to their illegal status (Ortega et al., 2018). However, the healthcare industry has ensured the states have emergency Medicaid cover that takes care of patients in labor and prenatal wards. The emergency Medicaid cover is also used to stabilize undocumented patients but does not offer service once the patient has stabilized.
The majority of the undocumented seek medical attention in community health centers and other free clinics. This is because the health clinics and community centers are situated in the neighborhood (Guadamuz et al., 2020). This makes it easier for the undocumented to access healthcare services. Furthermore, these centers receive funding from the federal government to bear the undocumented and those who do not have medical cover. Other facilities survive on donations and volunteer work to make the cost of services as affordable as possible. However, there is a federal poverty line and most undocumented immigrants opt out of looking for medical covers.
While providing health care for everyone is their responsibility, it is difficult for the providers to act as advocates for the issue due to the policies surrounding undocumented immigrants. The law in America requires health care providers to report to the U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement any undocumented immigrant who seeks medical attention (Wagner, 2019). This makes it hard for physicians to choose whether to maintain the Hippocratic Oath and cross the legal line or abide by the law and fail to keep their morale and ethical responsibility.
The healthcare system has made strides in its efforts to provide equal services to both residents and the undocumented. However, the advocacy role is limited to emergency cases where the care providers do not care whether that person is undocumented. Today, most healthcare providers are aware of the different cultural beliefs and customs that place them in a better position to advocate for undocumented patients (Rodriguez, 2019). The language barrier is no longer considered a barrier to accessing quality services. Most facilities have hired interpreters whose role is to maintain a clear community making it easy for a doctor to make an evidence-based diagnosis.
In acting as advocates, the healthcare industry through medical research has expanded its horizon to include certain imported diseases. These are health conditions that most undocumented immigrants come with to their resident countries. Understanding the socioeconomic environment of the origin country determines the best course of treatment for the patients (Rodriguez, 2019). Most of the undocumented live in impoverished communities and are therefore more prone to communicable diseases. Having partnerships with community health centers and clinics in those neighborhoods makes it easy for them to access health care services.
Overall, the undocumented are the most affected when it comes to access to health care services. This is because they cannot obtain medical covers and therefore have to use their earnings to receive treatment. Even when these services are offered at a lower cost, they still do not access them for fear of deportation. As a result, most of them do not seek medical attention even for critical conditions such as maternal and prenatal care. The health care system is however at the forefront to ensure there is access to healthcare services for everyone who walks through the hospital doors. The policies are also evolving to allow the undocumented access to medical care through Emergency Medicaid and funds.
Guadamuz, J. S., Durazo-Arvizu, R. A., Daviglus, M. L., Perreira, K. M., Calip, G. S., Nutescu, E. A.,.& Qato, D. M. (2020). Immigration status and disparities in the treatment of cardiovascular disease risk factors in the Hispanic community health study/study of Latinos (Visit 2, 2014–2017). American Journal of Public Health, 110(9), 1397-1404. Web.
Hammig, B., Henry, J., & Davis, D. (2019). Disparities in health care coverage among US born and Mexican/Central American born labor workers in the US. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 21(1), 66-72. Web.
Ortega, A. N., McKenna, R. M., Pintor, J. K., Langellier, B. A., Roby, D. H., Pourat, N.,… & Wallace, S. P. (2018). Health care access and physical and behavioral health among undocumented Latinos in California. Medical care, 56(11), 919. Web.
Rodriguez, N. (2019). Undocumented migration and evolving health care ethical issues. The American Journal of Bioethics, 19(4), 58-60. Web.
Wagner, J. K. (2019). Ethical and legal considerations for the inclusion of underserved and underrepresented immigrant populations in precision health and genomic research in the United States. Ethnicity & disease, 29 (Suppl 3), 641. Web.