Photo: Juan Alberto Vázquez / Courtesy
Given the delay in the approval of the budget in the state of New York, almost a hundred immigrants went this Wednesday to the office of Governor Kathy Hochul in Manhattan to blow pots, whistles, frying pans for 2 minutes and 55 seconds as part of a program in which the message was that “access to health is a human right and not a privilege.” The time chosen sought to tie the number with the 255,000 immigrants who currently do not have access to federally funded health insurance.
“I have suffered from diabetes for a long time, however, due to not having health insurance and the high cost of medications, I have not been able to start my treatment, allowing this disease to progress and putting the integrity of my health at risk,” said Dolores Juárez, leader of the Make The Road New York (MTRNY) Staten Island Immigration Committee.
Arlin Cruz Escobar, director of MTRNY Health Programs, explained to El Diario that the intention is to expand coverage, regardless of the applicant’s immigration status, so that they are included in the 1332 exemption, a figure that is mainly based on federal funds. “Last year Hochul promised to include all immigrants in the exemption, but that has not happened so far” and for the same reason he motivated the demonstration this Wednesday.
Cruz Escobar clarified that the state of NY currently spends close to 500 million dollars a year on emergency Medicare expenses, whose limited coverage does not reach primary health expenses and is concentrated only in situations when the patient arrives at a hospital for a uncontrollable affair. The activist insisted that the state government would save that amount if it decided to take that step in favor of the unprotected migrant community.
The importance of being healthy
Gabina Santamaria made a loud sound on the frying pan she brought so that the noise would reach the 38th floor where Kathy Hochul’s office is located in New York City. “Although I have some pending medical visits, such as the dentist’s, I haven’t been able to make them because I owe many bills to the hospital and then they don’t receive me,” she claimed with some helplessness.
“Treatment for my disease costs about $1,500 a month at a pharmacy and $450 a month at the hospital, and I asked Governor Hochul: How can a New Yorker and mother like me access diabetes treatment when prices are low? Are they so high and my income so low?” Dolores Juárez complained.
An attendee who also suffers from diabetes is Juan Rosa, who has lived on Long Island for 17 years. During the speeches he highlighted how in speeches politicians usually consider migrants as the backbone of the city, but there are times when in reality they are forgotten. “Every day for the rest of my life I will have to take drugs that cost more than $140 and most of the time I don’t have enough money to buy them,” Rosa murmured. The lack of full health insurance coverage prevents this citizen from either continuing his treatment or regularly attending medical appointments.
Eliana is a Bolivian immigrant who also joined Make the Road New York, seeking support in health coverage for herself and other vulnerable New Yorkers. Eliana revealed with regret that she lost 2 brothers, a brother-in-law and a niece who fell ill with Covid “and could not be cared for due to lack of health insurance and despite the fact that I have been here for 40 years, a time that does not serve me to have access to a health insurance program to take care of me,” he lamented. She told Eliana that she worked for more than 30 years as a street vendor in extreme conditions of heat and cold. “All that effort now takes its toll on me and I feel the weight of the years on my bones that are always sore” so he returns to the same complaint that due to lack of health insurance, “I can’t get a consultation and that’s why I come to demand that medical coverage be for everyone”.
Enrique Núñez, who lives in Brooklyn, was another of those present who took the microphone to tell part of his story. He explained that type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease that requires specific controls, but “going to the hospital for care is sometimes not an option for me; This is because I am excluded from accessing health insurance due to my immigration status.” Dressed in a cap that barely hid the thinness of his face, Núñez knows that he is not the only one who lives this reality and accepts that when deciding to migrate, many like him are faced with journeys “where they work a lot, rest little and eat very little.” bad or precarious”. Born in the Dominican Republic, Enrique encouraged those present to continue to demand that access to preventative controls, treatments, medicines and more. He is one of those calling on Governor Hochul to follow through on her campaign promise to include all New Yorkers in health insurance.
The right to health: a fight on several fronts
The stubborn rain that covered a good part of New York City on Wednesday afternoon did not prevent the protest from being held or cool the spirits of the dozens who responded to the call and who focused on their request and making as much noise as possible. possible. In addition to the cacerolazo, it was reported that last Tuesday federal, state and local elected officials sent letters to Governor Hochul requesting that the enacted state budget for fiscal year 2024 include health care coverage for undocumented New Yorkers, the same fight that continues organizations like MTRNY.
So the pressure is mounting on the governor herself as the budget continues this week in Albany. “We have not heard from the governor, but we do have support in the Senate and the Assembly that have already included coverage for everyone in their budget,” Arlin Cruz Escobar clarified.
For her part, Medha Ghosh, who is senior health policy coordinator for the Coalition for Asian-American Children and Families (CACF), remarked that this organization “fully supports the #CoverageForAll FY24 budget priority for the state of New York to expand the Essential Plan to all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration.” She offered data such as that two-thirds of the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community are immigrants, and in New York City, almost 80% of AAPIs are also immigrants who also “have faced high levels of of poverty, linguistic isolation and lack of insurance”. She returned to the point that “health care is a human right” and pointed out that access to health care coverage “makes everyone safer, especially in the face of ongoing global pandemics.”
Dr. Steve Auerbach, wearing his traditional white coat, said during his speech that Coverage for All “would not only help people seek care without fear of cost, but it also means that doctors, clinics and hospitals that provide that care would receive a fair reimbursement” for their services rendered.
Auerbach reported that this type of inclusive plan would better support “all hospitals in the safety net, including those in rural communities that are underfunded. and not only those that are in the big cities”.
He joined in calling on Governor Hochul to revise the federal 1332 waiver and, along with the legislature, pass Coverage for All, which from his medical standpoint is a win-win formula.
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