Massachusetts Initiative Seeks To Help Hispanics, Brazilians Obtain Health Coverage
The Massachusetts Latino Health Insurance Program is seeking to expand its services to help more Boston-area Latinos and Brazilians obtain health insurance before Dec. 31, the deadline by which all residents must obtain health coverage or face tax penalties, the Boston Globe reports. The Boston University School of Public Health runs the program.
Data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System show that 22.6% of Latinos in Boston's western suburbs are uninsured, and a 2001 study by the Wayside Youth & Family Support Network found that 93% of Brazilians in Framingham, Marlborough and Milford are uninsured.
The program's goal is to help eligible Latinos and Brazilians apply for health insurance. Because undocumented immigrants are ineligible for state-subsidized and other public health insurance, they cannot be penalized for not obtaining coverage, Milagros Abreu, director of the program, said.
The program also promotes preventive care through monthly workshops, as Latinos are less likely than others to have a primary care physician and more likely to use emergency department services for routine health issues, Abreu said. It has received support from various local churches and congregations and also has applied for a grant to boost outreach efforts.
Janet Yardley, medical director of the Framingham Community Health Center and chief medical officer of the Great Brook Valley Health Center, said Latinos might find it easier than Brazilians -- who primarily speak Portuguese -- to access the U.S. health care system because more people speak Spanish. Latinos also tend to have lived in the U.S. longer and are eligible for more programs than Brazilians, she added.
Abreu said, "It is necessary and mandatory for people to receive care for easily preventable diseases," adding, "Clinics and hospitals have an obligation to the community" (Perez-Brennan, Boston Globe, 11/8).