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How can undocumented persons get COVID-19 treatment?

Although hospital workers may ask about your insurance status, they should not ask about a person's documentation status. There is a law called EMTALA (Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act) that states that anyone who comes into the emergency room requiring life-saving medical attention must be medically stabilized regardless of their ability to pay, including documentation status.

In addition, undocumented persons can access COVID-19 treatment through several avenues, regardless of their immigration status.

1. Public Health Clinics and Community Health Centers

  • Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs): These centers provide services to all individuals, regardless of immigration status. They offer COVID-19 testing, treatment, and vaccinations. Services are often provided on a sliding fee scale based on income.
  • Community Health Clinics: Many community clinics and non-profit organizations offer healthcare services to undocumented individuals, including COVID-19 treatment.

2. Emergency Medical Services

  • Emergency Care: Under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), anyone seeking emergency treatment in a hospital in the United States must be treated regardless of their ability to pay or immigration status. This includes emergency care for COVID-19.

3. State and Local Health Programs

  • State-Specific Programs: Some states have programs that provide healthcare services to undocumented residents. For instance, California’s Medi-Cal offers limited services to undocumented individuals.
  • Local Health Departments: Local health departments often provide COVID-19 testing and vaccination services without requiring proof of residency or citizenship.

4. Community Organizations and Charities

  • Non-Profit Organizations: Many non-profits and advocacy groups provide assistance to undocumented individuals seeking healthcare. They may offer direct medical services or help connect individuals to healthcare providers.
  • Religious Organizations: Churches and other religious organizations often have outreach programs that include healthcare services for undocumented persons.

5. COVID-19 Specific Programs

  • COVID-19 Testing and Vaccination Sites: Many testing and vaccination sites funded by federal or state programs do not require proof of insurance or immigration status. This is part of an effort to ensure widespread access to COVID-19 healthcare.

6. Insurance Options

  • Limited Insurance Programs: While undocumented persons are not eligible for most federal health insurance programs, some states offer limited insurance programs that cover specific health needs, including those related to COVID-19.

Practical Steps

  1. Find Local Resources: Check local health department websites or call them to find out about free or low-cost clinics in your area.
  2. Seek Assistance from Advocacy Groups: Organizations such as the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) and the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) provide resources and information about accessing healthcare.
  3. Use Community Health Networks: Utilize networks like the National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics to find accessible healthcare options.

Sources for More Information

By utilizing these resources, undocumented persons can access necessary COVID-19 treatment and other healthcare services.

This article was written and edited by the Tayo editorial desk and has been reviewed by an independent panel of subject matter experts.

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