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Mar 27, 2020 | Nicolás Ríos

Q&A: COVID-19 and Health Care Access

A health professional explains what options are available to undocumented New Yorkers
  • Read the original article (in Spanish) of this Q&A with questions from our WhatsApp community.

Last week, Documented put a call out through its WhatsApp list to our Spanish-speaking readers, asking what questions they have about immigration status, public healthcare options in New York City and the COVID-19 pandemic. Mon Yuck Yu is the Executive Vice President and Chief of Staff Academy of Medical & Public Health Services, a a nonprofit health service organization based in Brooklyn. Here are her responses:

  1. In NYC, what health services can undocumented migrants access regarding Coronavirus?
  • If you have a regular healthcare provider, call them first to ask about your symptoms, they can let you need further follow-u or testing. If you need a provider, NYC Health+Hospitals facilities provide free coronavirus testing and care to all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, insurance status or ability to pay. If you are experiencing symptoms and are older than 50 or have a pre-existing medical condition, call (844) 692-4692 or 311 to make an appointment. Tests are not offered to individuals with no or mild symptoms and low risk factors at this time. Here is the current list of testing facilities, as of March 20, 2020:
  • Health+Hospitals: Bellevue, Elmhurst, Harlem, Metropolitan, Kings County, Lincoln, Woodhull, Queens, Coney Island (drive-thru), and Jacobi (drive-thru) – Indoor Assessment & Testing Center, BY APPOINTMENT ONLY: (844) 692-4692 or 311.
  • Brooklyn Hospital (121 DeKalb Avenue) – Outdoor Tent at Emergency Room Entrance for Pre-Screening (no appointment needed)
  • South Beach Behavioral Health Center Parking Lot (Seaview Avenue) – Drive Thru, BY APPOINTMENT ONLY: (888) 364-3065.
  • In general, while undocumented migrants do not qualify for marketplace insurance options under New York State of Health, they are eligible for health services through programs such as Emergency Medicaid, Medcaid for Pregnant Women, Children’s Health Insurance Plan (children 18 and under), and Medicaid for people with AIDS. They can also access free health screenings, consultations, physical therapy and mental health therapy at organizations like Academy of Medical & Public Health Services (212-256-9036, 5306 Third Ave, Brooklyn); diagnosis and treatment of common illness at free student-run clinics like Brooklyn Free Clinic (470 Clarkson Ave Ste A, Brooklyn, (347) 688-6655); and income-based sliding scale services at many community clinics and public hospitals. In 2019, New York City also began to offer a NYC Cares program that provides patients at Health+Hospitals with care coordination services; currently this program exists in the Bronx and Brooklyn and will expand to other boroughs in the upcoming years.

2. Will the users be charged for getting tested?

No, users will not be charged for getting tested. Anybody who receives testing for COVID-19 is not responsible for a copay or coinsurance for the test if they have health insurance. If you do not have health insurance, you can receive free testing at select hospitals in New York State.

3. What happens with us migrants that are uninsured?

Anybody who is in need of a provider will be connected to one through NYC Health + Hospitals by calling 311 or 844-NYC-4NYC (844-692-4692), regardless of immigration status, insurance status, or ability to pay. NYC health facilities are prohibited from sharing your information with federal immigration enforcement agencies unless there is a subpoena or a court order for a criminal investigation.

4. Will I be admitted to a hospital if I test positive?

Only individuals who have trouble breathing will be admitted to a hospital. If you have mild symptoms and test positive, you will be directed to go home and isolate yourself for at least 7 days from the time of symptom onset AND 72-hours without fever (without the use of fever-reducing drugs, such as Tylenol and ibuprofen).

5. Will I have to pay for treatment if I test positive and I’m uninsured?

At the moment there is no treatment for COVID-19. The best course of action is to stay at home and isolate yourself from others in order to prevent spreading of the virus.

6. What happens if I’m undocumented and test positive? Will that information ever get to ICE?

Answer: No, it should not. We checked NYC Health and Hospitals information on medical privacy and services for immigrants. These are some of the policies:

You can check the document here: https://www.nychealthandhospitals.org/seek-care-without-fear-know-the-facts/

See also NYC coronavirus/COVID-19 information here https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/health/health-topics/coronavirus.page

See NY State information here https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/home

7. If I have been exposed to people who tested positive or I think I might be a positive case, what should I do?

If you had close contact with someone with known COVID-19, then you should stay home for 14 days. If you are going to contract COVID-19, symptoms will appear within 2-14 days from the time of contact. If you live with someone with COVID-19, you should also stay home, wash your hands and avoid that person as much as possible.

8. What should I do if I am feeling symptoms?

  • If you have mild to moderate symptoms, stay home. You do not have to seek medical care or try to get tested. By staying home, you reduce the possibility of transmission to others, including health care workers who are needed to care for the more seriously ill. If you are over 50 years old or have chronic conditions, consult your doctor.
  • You should stay home for 7 days since the onset of their symptoms AND 72-hours without fever (without the use of fever-reducing drugs, such as Tylenol and ibuprofen).
  • If your symptoms do not go away or get worse after three to four days, consult with your doctor.

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