Opinion: It’s time for CT hospitals and clinics to expand health care coverage for our immigrant communities

A sign for a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Danbury last year.

A sign for a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Danbury last year.

H John Voorhees III, Staff Photographer / Hearst Connecticut Media

Obtaining health insurance in Connecticut as an immigrant and minority can be difficult. One of the services Connecticut hospitals and clinics fail to adequately offer is interpretation and translation for non-English native speakers. More than 46 million people in the United States do not speak English as their primary language, and more than 21 million speak English less than “very well.”

However, the lack of interpretation resources in Connecticut hospitals and clinics is only one of the limits immigrant communities face every day. Our health should not be jeopardized because of not having health insurance.

I am originally from Venezuela and I moved to Bridgeport 12 months ago with my son who is only 11 years old. When we first moved here, we tried to understand how health care, education and other services work here in Bridgeport.

As a mother, it has been difficult to find a suitable doctor for my son and me because of our immigration status, as we do not qualify for HUSKY medical insurance. My son has only been able to see the doctor at his school-based clinic, but I can’t take him to have check-ups or get access to dental care because we don’t have insurance.

I recently had an accident where I broke a tooth and I was bleeding so much and I was in a lot of pain. I went to ask for an appointment at Optimum Community Center to see a dentist, but since I wasn’t a patient I had to make an appointment, and bring the requirements and they ended up giving me an appointment for three months later. It was very difficult for me because I was in a lot of pain, and they didn’t explain anything to me about how the system at their clinic worked or if I had all the documents, or how the program worked, and I couldn’t afford to go to emergency care because I wasn’t working and I was not going to be able to pay.

I felt discriminated against because my rights were not respected, and their lack of information was not helpful. The clinics don’t help you or explain the different options to qualify for a sliding scale or another financial program. It is not fair having to wait three months with pain or other consequences to see a doctor.

Connecticut hospitals and clinics need to be clearer and more informative with the immigrant population. They should help explain to the people how to classify financial programs and assist them with explaining how the health care system works, giving them a clear idea of why certain decisions are being made.

They should share different resources and locations to go to if there is a health emergency, where they would accept you without insurance or appointments, and help you in case of an emergency.

It is time for Connecticut hospitals and clinics to provide better care and resources for all regardless of immigration status. It is time for the government to take action and offer different resources and services, such as the translation of documents and clear information about financial programs they can apply to. Health care is a human right that nobody should infringe upon.

Nuliva Montilla is a member of Make the Road Connecticut.