Latino Immigrant Families Often Forego Health Care Services


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For many immigrant families, the current political climate adds a great deal of stress to their lives. Many Latinos already face inequities in health care; they are still the largest uninsured population in the U.S.

In South Carolina (5.2% Latino population), this stress is now manifesting in even harsher ways. According to a report in The Post and Courier, many immigrant families in the state are not only foregoing health care services for the adult family members, but also their children.

“We’ve gotten calls from the health department of mothers not coming to … appointments, not showing up for immunizations,” said Julie Smithwick, executive director of the Latino assistance group PASOs.

The statewide group connects Latino patients to health care resources across South Carolina, including Medicaid, immunizations and the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, which provides food assistance and free baby formula.

“Right now, immigrants are facing a lot of challenges,” she said. “There is a lot of fear out there. Folks don’t know what’s true and what’s not.”

According to data from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, between January and April 2017, an average of 265 Latino participants missed scheduled appointments each month for the WIC program.

Kaiser Health News recently reported that some foreign-born Californians have also been reluctant to sign their children up for Medicaid policies.

Despite their current legal status, many Latino children in South Carolina legally qualify for many health care services. Smithwick and her group have been working toward encouraging parents to enroll their children.

“[Latino immigrants] have a right to receive these services for their kids, who are American citizens,” Smithwick said. “If you’ve got a bunch of kids who aren’t getting the services they need, it could affect the whole population.”

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