A Rochester Family Travels to Experience Medicine as an Undocumented Minnesotan

Marco Loela Alvarez’s father, Daniel, began losing weight at an alarming rate after the family moved to Minnesota from Guadalajara, Mexico, in 2004.

Danielle Loella, 60, also became irritable and often had sudden lethargy.

He was later diagnosed with diabetes and hyperthyroidism and took prescription drugs to control the disease. But because Loella was an illegal immigrant and without health insurance, it was difficult to get the regular treatment she needed to survive. He expects emergency rooms to be his primary recourse for serious health problems, where he faces either high costs or denial of treatment. will do.

The Rochesters are hopeful that Minnesota legislators will pass the final version of the Minnesota Care Immigration Inclusion Act to clear the uncertainty that has plagued them for nearly two decades. This will allow low-income illegal Minnesotans to enroll in state health insurance. .

“If you want healthy children, give healthy parents,” said Marco Loera Alvarez. “It’s the parents who suffer. They’re older people with chronic illnesses who need care.”

Marco Loela Alvarez, 28, is a pharmacy technician and eligible for the Deferred Arrival of Children Act (DACA), which protects children brought to the United States as illegal immigrants from deportation. He now supports a bill that would give his illegal immigrant parents and tens of thousands of Minnesotans like them access to Minnesota Care.

The Minnesota House and Senate passed their respective versions of the bill, but before lawmakers voted on the final bill and sent it to Gov. need to adjust.

If the final bill is approved before parliament closes on May 22, the changes are expected to come into force by 2026. Currently, Minnesota Care Program recipients are required to be US citizens or legal residents.

The Senate bill would expand access to undocumented children under the age of 19, while the House bill would grant access to all low-income undocumented immigrants and their families. Both bills were included in the Health and Human Services bill, the package of bills that fund the department’s programs.

Unidos Minnesota, a local advocacy group for Minnesota’s Latinos, is calling for the bill to include all eligible illegal immigrants, regardless of age.

“You can’t separate the inseparable,” said Sara Lopez, policy director for Unidos Minnesota. “The impact is even greater when health care is accessible not only to children but also to their caregivers,” she said. .”

Senator Liz Boldon (DFL-Rochester), who serves on the bill’s Congress Committee, supports the initiative.

“Expanding access to Minnesota Care for illegal immigrants would have a transformative impact on thousands of lives,” Boldon said in a written statement. “I continue to strongly support this proposal and its inclusion in the Health and Human Services Commission Committee Report.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Washington DC, California, Illinois, Maine, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington provide state health insurance for undocumented children and pregnant women. Massachusetts and Connecticut recently extended coverage to children who are not eligible for immigration.

Washington, DC recently expanded health insurance to low-income residents, regardless of age or immigration status. Illinois and New York also cover all eligible residents regardless of immigration status.

“Minnesota isn’t reinventing the wheel here,” Lopez said. “And it is important to mention that we leave no one behind. An essential worker who was doing a tough job.”

An estimated 81,000 illegal immigrants live in Minnesota, according to the Immigration Policy Institute, a research agency in Washington, DC. About half of the population qualify for Minnesota Care because they earn below 200 percent of the federal poverty line, according to the House bill’s fiscal report.

Unidos executive director Emilia González Avalos said the bill would allow illegal immigrants to access preventative and mental health services and build relationships with their primary care physicians.

“Immigrants are not separated from their U.S.-born children and grandchildren. Their health is intact,” said Gonzalez Avalos. “This intervention will eliminate intergenerational exclusion and high morbidity rates, allowing workers to spot the disease and treat it early rather than in the emergency room.”

The Minnesota Department of Human Services estimates that about two-thirds of the illegal immigrant population, or about 54,000 people, were uninsured throughout the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though Marco Loela Alvarez is a healthcare worker himself, his family was no exception.

Living with diabetes and hyperthyroidism is a daily health risk for Loella Alvarez’s father, Daniel, who lost temporary insurance secured by a social worker in 2006. . He was able to secure his insurance on an emergency basis, but the insurance expired after two years. He then had to go drug-free for several months.

“We didn’t know what to do,” said Loella Alvarez. “his [insulin] Levels were all over the place. No matter how much he controlled his diet, it was not. ”

He said his family relies on free clinics that provide treatment for illegal immigrants. His father had already been diagnosed and had an existing prescription, so he was able to resume medication. If he had not received the initial diagnosis and prescription, the free clinic would not have provided treatment.

However, Loella Alvarez said the clinic does not offer preventive treatment.

“Let’s say he has diabetes or his thyroid goes bad. Adjusting his meds won’t be so easy,” Loella Alvarez said. “You either go to your local clinic and hope someone can help you, or you keep yourself under control.”

Loella Alvarez said her family would have had no choice without the community clinic.

“There was a time when I actually wanted to go back to Mexico because it was a life or death situation,” Loella Alvarez said of her parents. “We got through it together as a family,” she said, “but there was also fear.”

Today, Daniel Loella is helping siblings with diabetes get access to the health care system without insurance. One of his brothers lives in California and has state health insurance, so he doesn’t have too much trouble getting treatment.

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