Flint, MI—Navigating the world of healthcare is complicated enough as a legal citizen of the U. S. For undocumented members of the Latinx community, the issue of healthcare and health insurance is less often about what provider they can use but whether or not they can use one at all.
To help amend this inequity, Hamilton Community Health Network’s outreach and enrollment department has hired Mildred Zuccaro to help with day-to-day communications as well as to help translate and disseminate information regarding health care.
Zuccaro, who comes from a background in medicine said she has “worked with the Latinx community in the past. I know what their needs are … oftentimes we (the Latinx community) are the last to find out what is happening so I’m just going to be helping people.”
More specifically, Zuccaro has joined HCHN to help enroll members of the community into healthcare plans designed specifically for low-income individuals as well as to help translate essential information.
Unlike individuals living in the U.S with legal status, undocumented immigrants have little to no support when it comes to understanding their healthcare options. The fear of reporting oneself as undocumented combined with lack of native-language access to the necessary information means about 45% of the country’s undocumented population has no form of health insurance.
Because HCHN is a federally qualified health center, client data, including an individual’s residency status, is reported to the U.S Health Resources and Services Administration. Like all other types of medical information, however, each individual’s details are protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
“I will be assisting individuals who do not have health insurance as well as providing support for those who need help with Medicaid … similarly, if someone arrives at one of Hamilton’s clinics, I will be there to provide assistance as an interpreter,” Zuccaro said.
According to HCHN’s Health Insurance Enrollment services website, individuals who seek out help can enroll themselves and their families into services like the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, MIChild and Healthy Kids health insurance plan.
Outreach and Enrollment Coordinator Tim McCarron said that despite the fact Hamilton has been doing outreach within the Latinx community for years, this is the first time he in his experience that HCHN has had the opportunity to work with a bilingual staff member.
“We’re really excited to have Mildred on board to tie in that bilingual aspect of our outreach … I’ve done a few events at Our Lady of Guadalupe here and there but I think this will open up a lot more opportunities for the Hispanic (community) to know that they can come (to HCHN) regardless of whether they have insurance or their aptitude with the English language,” McCarron said.
According to McCarron an important aspect of his team’s outreach has to do with explaining the fact that medical and insurance services are available to members of the community regardless of any legal or language barriers they might otherwise face.
He explained that when anyone comes to HCHN looking for health services, “even if the answer is that you are undocumented currently, it is not going to stop you from getting health coverage.”
The data collected during patient visits by HCHN has allowed McCarron to identify a gap in health care coverage between the Latinx population in Flint (estimated to be around 4500) and the number of Hispanic or Latinx-identifying clients who visited HCHN in 2020, about 550 individuals.
“That’s actually a big part of kind of why I think this is important for us to reach out to the Hispanic community because currently, even though there is a pretty good size Hispanic (population) within Genesee county, we don’t really have that many patients here at Hamilton…that check those boxes for Spanish-speaking and Hispanic origin for their race,” McCarron said.
On her end, Zuccaro says she is excited to help bridge the gap between the city’s Latinx community and the types of health services offered by HCHN clinics.
“Many times we feel fear at the idea of reaching out and asking about these services but I’ve come to realize it is possible for people, regardless of residency status to have access to healthcare,” Zuccaro said.