Tag: health care

Immigration NewsImmigration Reform

Parsing Obama's Message to a Hispanic Audience: No Direct Answers on Immigration, Defends Use of "Illegal" Term

Obama sits down to talk to Jorge Ramos on Univision. (Photo: Univision.com)

Obama sits down to talk to Jorge Ramos on Univision. (Photo: Univision.com)

Part of President Barack Obama’s Sunday morning interview blitz was a sitdown with Univision’s Jorge Ramos, in which the anchor’s questions were as telling as the president’s answers.

Ramos confronted Obama not only about whether undocumented immigrants will be able to buy insurance under a reformed health care system, but also questioned his use of the term “illegal immigrants” during his recent speech to Congress and pressured him on his fading promise of putting forward an immigration reform bill during his first year in office.

Obama stepped carefully around the thornier questions and, other than reaffirming that the undocumented will only get health insurance by paying full price for it, did not say much that was news to an Hispanic audience that may be increasingly disappointed with his government.


Immigration NewsImmigration Reform

Immigration Battle Heating Up: Group Accuses Talk Radio Hosts of Supporting "Hate Group"

A talk radio event sparks an ugly exchange. (Image: FAIR)

A talk radio event sparks an ugly exchange. (Image: FAIR)

Over 45 of “America’s finest radio hosts,” according to organizers, have converged on Washington D.C. to hold a conservative event Tuesday and Wednesday in opposition to President Obama’s health care proposal and the possibility of immigration reform.

But the event’s organizer, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, is being denounced by America’s Voice, one of the leading pro-immigration lobbying organizations, as a hate group.

While both groups have long disagreed, and maintain widely divergent views on immigration, seldom have their attacks been so direct.


Immigration NewsImmigration Reform

Analysts Agree that Undocumented Immigrants Will Not Get Free Health Care, But Who's Listening?

By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor

Not even the president can establish a fact beyond argument in the divisive health care debate. (Photo: The White House)

Not even a president addressing the nation can establish a fact beyond argument in the divisive health care debate. (Photo: The White House)

It’s probably not what President Barack Obama expected, but the highlight of his speech on health care reform to a joint session of Congress seemed to be his being heckled by South Carolina Republican Congressman Joe Wilson. The now infamous “You Lie!” scream came after Obama refuted the Republican claim that undocumented immigrants will receive health care under his initiative.

Several organizations went back to the bill once more Thursday to try to establish for certain who’s actually telling the truth on this one.

The main source in this review is Treatment of Noncitizens in H.R. 3200, an 11-page analysis by the Congressional Research Service, which you can download here.

The report seems to debunk the main claim by the bill’s opponents: that the lack of an explicit verification system to check whether applicants are legally in the U.S. means the undocumented would be able to purchase health coverage with the same government credits citizens would get under the proposal. CRS says that spelling out how the verification system will work will fall to the new Health Choices Commissioner.

“Thus, it appears, absent of a provision in the bill specifying the verification procedure, that the Commissioner would be responsible for determining a mechanism to verify the eligibility of noncitizens for the credits.”

[ See report, page 6 ]


CommentaryImmigration NewsImmigration ReformLatino

News Analysis: Health Care Reform Turns into an Immigration Debate for Some

By Pilar Marrero, La Opinión and FI2W reporter

Health care reform opponents in West Hartford, Conn. (Photo: ragesoss/flickr)

Health care reform opponents in West Hartford, Conn. (Photo: ragesoss/Flickr - Click to visit.)

This Wednesday, President Obama is scheduled to give a major speech on health care reform before a joint session of Congress. The speech comes after weeks of controversy over various proposals and their real or imagined effects on the country. Some groups have focused not on the details of how to cover more people, lower the cost of care, or improve the health of Americans, but on how immigrants fit into the equation.

When a Congressional Research Office report surfaced recently analyzing the treatment of immigrants (documented and not) under one of the pending health care reform bills, some took it to mean… well, the exact opposite of what the CRO found.

The Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a Washington lobbyist group with an immigration restriction agenda, claimed it confirmed their worst fears: that illegal aliens would get health care coverage on the government’s dime.

“Congressional Research Agency Confirms Illegal Aliens Will Get Health Benefits Under House Bill,” claimed the headline, still at the top of FAIR’s website on Monday.

There is just one problem with that assertion: if you read the CRO report, it says the complete opposite.


BostonImmigration NewsLatino

New Massachusetts State Budget Eliminates Health Coverage for 28,000 Legal Immigrants

Hispanic News Briefs From New England Newspapers

By Pedro Pizano, FI2W contributor
Siglo 21 Massachusetts newspaper

Siglo 21 newspaper

BOSTON, Mass. — The state Senate is seeking $130 million in savings by kicking “aliens with special status” out of Commonwealth Care, a subsidized insurance program for low-income residents, according to the National Center for Policy Analysis. The program will save an additional $63 million by no longer automatically enrolling new low-income residents.

The “aliens with special status” are 28,000 documented immigrants who have had a green card for less than five years. They will be left without health coverage from Commonwealth Care after August 1.

The Massachusetts Hospital Association says the $130 million cut will bring additional costs to the hospitals that provide free care to people with low incomes. They say those hospitals would need to spend an additional $87 million in 2009 to treat those who lose their coverage, according to the NCPA.

Although Gov. Deval Patrick approved the budget cut for the 2010 fiscal year on July 1st, he also submitted separate legislation to restore $70 million to Commonwealth Care. This program is central to the nearly universal health care law enacted here in 2006 that achieved the nation’s lowest percentage of uninsured residents: 2.6 percent compared to a national average of 15 percent.


CommentaryImmigration News

The Swine Flu Outbreak and Immigration: News Analysis From Feet in Two Worlds

No face masks anywhere in Mexico City. (Photo: Diego Graglia)

No face masks anywhere in Mexico City. (Photo: Diego Graglia)

By John Rudolph, FI2W Executive Producer

With Mexico presumed to be at the epicenter of the swine flu outbreak and Mexicans comprising one of the largest immigrant groups in the U.S., it didn’t take long for people to start making connections between the flu and immigration. Officials in Dallas and San Diego are reaching out to large Mexican immigrant communities in those cities with advice on how to prevent the possible spread of the disease. According to San Diego station KFMB-TV:

Health officials are concerned about the spread of swine flu from Mexico to the U.S. by illegal immigrants. Migrants in San Diego may not have access to medical care, which could lead to the spread of the virus within those communities.

In another related development, the L.A. Times reports that fear of infection is causing immigrants living north of the border to reconsider returning to or visiting Mexico.

At least one member of Congress, Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY) recently called for the complete closure of the U.S.–Mexico border “until the virus is contained.”  Republican congressman Duncan Hunter of California, has called for a U.S. ban on all nonessential travel to Mexico.

Meanwhile, conservative bloggers and commentators are blaming the flu outbreak on “illegal aliens” and using the health threat to advance their call for sealing America’s borders.

And so in addition to legitimate public health concerns (some of them related to immigrants from Mexico), the flu outbreak has spawned a nasty war of words over immigrants and their place in American society. Conservative blogger Michelle Malkin is widely quoted on the Web for her comment, “Hey, maybe we’ll finally get serious about borders now.” Pro-immigrant columnists have responded to Malkin and others with equally blunt language. The headline of a blog post by Bonnie Fuller on Huffington Post screams, “Hate-Mongering Conservative Commentators Using Swine Flu to Promote Racism!”

The flu scare comes just as the Obama administration is ramping up efforts to bring about immigration reform. In addition, on Friday pro-immigrant rallies are planned in cities across the nation to keep pressure on the president and Congress to address the plight of undocumented immigrants.

The vitriolic exchange kicked off by the flu outbreak certainly won’t help efforts to reach a national consensus on immigration policy. It also won’t help anyone who has the flu or is at risk of becoming ill. But could it have an impact on the pace and scope of immigration reform efforts? Maybe. Has it revealed new racial fault lines following Obama’s historic election as the nation’s first African-American president? Perhaps. Do we have any idea where this is all headed? In both medical and political terms the answer to that question unfortunately is no.

Immigration News

New Law Expands Health Care for Immigrant Children: A Preview of Health Care Reform Debate?

By Eduardo A. de Oliveira, EthnicNewz and FI2W reporter

SAUGUS, Mass. – Shocked, fearful, and helpless – that’s how Samuel Goncalves felt in 2007 shortly after being diagnosed with lung cancer at the age of 18.

Samuel, who immigrated to the U.S. from Brazil with his family, had no health insurance. Even though he was a legal immigrant, Goncalves didn’t qualify for Medicaid or any other government-run health program. He only had a green card for three years – not five, as federal law required back then.

The five-year waiting period for legal immigrant children to qualify for health assistance was removed last week as President Barack Obama signed into law the Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Act of 2009 (SCHIP). SCHIP will enable states to cover more than four million uninsured children from low-income families – including legal immigrant children – by 2013, while continuing coverage for seven million youngsters already covered by the program.

Obama signed SCHIP into law despite opposition from conservatives.

Obama signed SCHIP into law despite opposition from conservatives... and CNN's Lou Dobbs. (Image: Media Matters for America)

In Congress, the debate over SCHIP was considered by many to be a preview of the upcoming debate over health care reform. Although the U.S. invests about $2 trillion per year in health care, 45 million Americans remain uninsured.

“Even though we’re considered the wealthiest country on Earth, the health and well-being of Americas’ children is worse than that of every other developed country in the world,” said Charles Homer, pediatrician and C.E.O. of the National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality (NICHQ), a Cambridge, Mass. based non-profit organization.

“This bill also provides states with funding for measuring the quality of service,” said Homer. “It not only insures that kids get in the door, but when they do, that the service is as good as it should be.”

For the past two years, NICHQ has worked with a pediatric national committee and pushed SCHIP with several leaders, such as Senator Evan Bayh (D.-Ind.).

SCHIP was first enacted in 1997, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. But the trail from conception to Congressional approval of the reauthorization bill last week was long and rocky. Since 2007, the House had voted on the proposal seven times. But it faced fierce resistance from Republicans like Iowa Representative Steve King, who denounced the bill as “a foundation stone for socialized medicine.” President Bush vetoed two versions of the bill approved by Congress. (more…)

Immigration NewsPolish

Polish Immigrant's Dream: Polish-Americans Will Help Elect Him To Congress

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska, Polish Daily News and FI2W reporter
Victor Forys

Victor Forys

Rod Blagojevich, the Illinois governor under investigation, may have had the power to pick a replacement to fill President Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat. But the governor does not get to choose a new representative from the 5th Congressional District, a position he once held, and which was left vacant in early January when Rahm Emanuel resigned from his congressional seat to become the new White House Chief of Staff.

A special election will be held on April 7 to fill the seat, after a primary on March 3. One of the 15 Democrats in the race is a Polish immigrant: Dr. Victor Forys, a political newcomer who believes he has a serious chance due to the area’s large Polish-American population.

Numerous Polish-Americans held the seat in the past, including disgraced congressman Dan Rostenkowski who, prior to his conviction on corruption charges, served as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Martin Gorski, who, like Mr. Forys, was born in Poland and came to the U.S. as a child.

Out of approximately 650,000 residents in the district, more than 111,000 (17%) are of Polish descent.



Immigrants, Physicians Look to Obama for Health Care Reform

By Eduardo A. de Oliveira EthnicNewz.org and FI2W reporter

When Barack Obama begins to focus on health reform as part of his lengthy to-do list, the new President probably won’t address the case of Pretinha, a 64-year-old undocumented housecleaner from Framingham, Mass., who worked for 22 years, but has no health insurance.

She is not alone. Dr. Milagros Abreu, a Boston University physician, knows hundreds of working families who, despite having paid taxes for years, were left behind by the Massachusetts Health Reform of 2006.

Dr. Milagros has helped more than a 1,000 Latino families enroll in a local health insurance.

Despite Pretinha’s lack of insurance, doctors at MetroWest Medical Center acted promptly after discovering her heart was failing. She was rushed to the operating room to receive a pacemaker, a small device that uses electrical pulses to normalize the heart rate.

Pretinha’s life was saved only because there were people who care for those who “simply don’t qualify.”

“Since June, our goal has been to draft a concrete proposal so the President can work on health reform on day one,” said John McDonough, a former Mass. state representative, and an envoy of Sen. Edward Kennedy’s office to spearhead health reform efforts.

President-elect Obama has said he will look for Congressional input on the direction the country takes on health care reform. But will the Republican minority in Congress compromise? Or will 46 million Americans, of which 32 percent are Latinos, remain uninsured?

“It’s probably too early to say how the Republicans will vote,” said McDonough, who admits that the illness of Sen. Kennedy, who was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor last May, has helped soften some hearts, but will not be decisive. (more…)

BostonImmigration News

In Massachusetts, Temple Turns Into Free Health Clinic To Serve Immigrants

By Eduardo A. de Oliveira, EthnicNewz and FI2W reporter

Jaime Viviani is treated at Congregation Beth-El, a Jewish temple in Sudbury, Massachusetts
(Photo: Elizabeth Mendonca/Brazilian Times)

SUDBURY, Mass. — Despite the economic crisis, the Barbosa family will have a healthy holiday this year.

Three generations of the Brazilian clan are undocumented and uninsured. But Alessandra Barbosa knows that if her mother or her daughter ever need health care they can find it at Congregation Beth El, a Sudbury Jewish temple which becomes a walk-in clinic on Tuesday evenings.

In spite of all the talk about how Massachusetts Health Reform has increased access to care, there are those, mostly undocumented immigrants, who are falling through the cracks.

“Last year, we provided care to 515 patients through 753 visits, nearly all the patients ranging in age from 19 to 64,” said Kim Prendergast, resource developer with MetroWest Free Medical Program. “About two-thirds of them were Brazilian and 15 percent, Hispanic.”

What started four years ago as a “band aid” to care for about twenty low-income people has morphed into a reliable source of treatment for forty patients a week. I strolled through the temple last week as nurses rallied language interpreters to help with the majority-immigrant crowd.