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What to Do When an Undocumented Loved One Needs Medical Treatment


With approximately 11.3 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. currently, some of them will inevitably need access to medical care. Especially among the elderly population, almost half of undocumented immigrants are completely uninsured.  A migrant or immigrant might feel apprehensive or scared about seeking medical treatment for reason of the immense financial burden, however, there is a way from them to get quality care.  


If you have an undocumented loved one, you also may be concerned that they might not be able to receive treatment without being deported, but this is not the case. Most times, treatment can be administered without officially revealing the immigration status of the patient.  


Right to Emergency Care

For emergency situations, there is a law that entitles everyone in the U.S. to medical care so you should not hesitate to get someone treated if it is an urgent situation.  Under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act requires hospitals that take federal funding to provide emergency care regardless of citizenship or legal status.  Therefore, undocumented medical treatment is available without health insurance at any time for emergency situations.  Hospitals will provide care until the patient is stabilized.  


Non-Emergency Situations


There are many times, however, that a medical situation is not urgent but does need to be dealt with.  What about the case for standard medical treatment or medical repatriation?  What happens for non-emergency situations, for example, treatment for the flu?  There are several options for undocumented immigrants to receive medical care:


  1. Health Clinics.  There are about 1,400 community health clinics nationwide that offer dental and medical care for undocumented immigrants.  These clinics do not ask for proof of citizenship and charge a nominal fee of anywhere between $25-$100, based on what the patient is able to pay. 
  2. Medical School Clinics.  Many medical schools run clinics that are staffed by medical and dental students and university physicians.  These clinics provide the same types of treatments that are available at community clinics.   
  3. Community Resources.  Many times, undocumented immigrants might not know where to go, which prevents them from seeking medical care.  Community resources, such as a local church, can help direct patients to get access to a clinic or hospital.


State Resources

Keep in mind that what treatment your loved one is eligible for might depend on where they are located in the United States.  Some states use more funding and have more resources to be able to offer undocumented medical treatment. California, for example, recently started offering government-subsidized health benefits to young adults living in the U.S. illegally.  States with a larger number of undocumented immigrants will have a larger pool of resources than those that do not. This may be worth researching to see if your loved one qualifies for benefits.  

If you have a loved one that falls ill or needs medical treatment but is not documented, there are outlets for them to receive undocumented medical treatment.  They should not avoid being treated because of medical issues that are left untreated often times escalate and can become a more serious case.

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