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Undocumented and Uninsured – A Health Care Challenge

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Tammy Worth – Special Correspondent – The Hale Center for Journalism

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is expected to make health insurance newly available to nearly 32 million Americans. The law has already expanded coverage for children and young adults. Beginning in January, it will broaden its reach as some states expand Medicaid eligibility and adults with pre-existing health conditions have greater access to private insurance through the individual marketplace.

But there is one large group that will be left out of the ACA – undocumented immigrants. The act prohibits the nearly 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States from being covered under the Medicaid expansion or signing up for state insurance exchanges. And those factors are only part of a bigger puzzle that inhibits undocumented and newly legal immigrants from receiving needed health care services. There are economic challenges, fear, discrimination and a system that is stacked against them in many ways.

In this series, we are examining the health care challenges undocumented immigrants face, how and where they receive care, where there are gaps in the system, the economics of immigration and what this group’s future looks like under current legislation. This series, looking at the undocumented and uninsured, is sponsored in part by a Reporting Fellowship on Health Care Performance through the Association of Health Care Journalists. Tammy Worth was one of three journalists from across the country chosen to participate in the year-long program that assists reporters in pursuing a large reporting topic examining health care delivery and performance.

The Commonwealth Fund provided support for the fellows, who attended seminars on health care performance, received training from health experts and conducted field research. The Commonwealth Fund, established in 1918, is focused on encouraging a high-performing health care system with better access, quality and efficiency, particularly for vulnerable populations. The organization supports and funds research and training toward this goal. The Association of Health Care Journalists is a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the public’s knowledge of health care issues by improving the quality and accuracy of health care reporting. The group, based at the University of Missouri, has nearly 1,500 members nationwide.

Major Funding for Health coverage on KCPT provided by Assurant Employee Benefits and the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City

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