By then, it was too late, said Freddy Mejia, health policy analyst at the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis.
“Folks were afraid to even get food from pantries because they were fearful of some type of retribution or some type of immigration enforcement,” Mejia said. “When we’re thinking about the really tough times, especially that immigrants had in terms of job loss, the impact of COVID itself, the health impacts, not having or being afraid to access some of public benefits were certainly detrimental.”
Confusion over what counted as public charge had mounted into fear of seeking COVID-19 tests, treatment or vaccinations – amplifying the health consequences even among naturalized citizens, who are the majority of the state’s immigrant population, according to the Department of Social Services.
On Thursday, Medicaid was expanded to include pregnancy coverage regardless of immigration status, with postpartum coverage extended to one year. It’s an important start, said Karen Kimsey, director of the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services, which oversees the state’s Medicaid program. But there’s work to be done, she said.
“We talk a lot about the outreach and the amazing work we’re doing to try and encourage people, but there’s a lot of fear out there,” Kimsey acknowledged. “There’s fear out there that if they enroll in health coverage, that somehow we will turn them over to ICE and that they will be deported.”
Originally Appeared Here