National Partnership for Women & Families

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Immigrants Often Face Language, Cultural Barriers to Health Insurance

Immigrants Often Face Language, Cultural Barriers to Health Insurance

September 4, 2014 — Immigrants who are in the U.S. legally and are required to obtain health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) often face language and cultural barriers that prevent them from getting covered or obtaining care if they do, Kaiser Health News reports.

Under the ACA, up to 10 million non-U.S. citizens are expected to gain coverage. However, non-citizens are three times more likely than U.S. citizens to be uninsured. This is largely because of cultural barriers that either prevent immigrants from receiving coverage or persuade them not to seek care even if they do obtain insurance.

The latter issue is especially problematic for those with chronic illnesses, such as breast cancer and diabetes.

For example, some immigrant women -- particularly women from Arab countries -- forgo breast cancer screenings because of the perceived stigma. Madiha Tariq -- public health manager for the Arab Community Center for Economic & Social Services -- said such women are worried that breast cancer will be passed from mother to daughter and that their daughters would then have trouble getting married if someone found out about the trait.

Solutions for Improved Access

In response, ACCESS has taken several steps to ensure women get the care they need. For example, to get women to come in for a screening, ACCESS lets women enter through unmarked doors so they will not be identified. Those who are diagnosed with breast cancer are paired with survivors to form a support unit.

Further, ACCESS helps all visitors navigate how to pay for unexpected out-of-pocket costs (Evans, Kaiser Health News, 9/3).