Remember: Your health is important! Make sure that you take good care of yourself so that you can stay healthy, keep your family and friends healthy, go to school, play sports, and do other activities. If you get sick or get hurt, there are free and low-cost doctors, clinics, health insurance and other resources that can help you. Reach out to us to see what doctors and resources are in your area!
This article will cover important topics that you should know about the health care system and medical resources in the US (click on the question below to go to the answer):
- When should I go to Urgent Care vs. the Emergency Room?
- Where can I find a health clinic?
- What should I know to protect myself and my family from COVID-19?
- What is health insurance and how do I get it?
Sometimes you will suddenly feel sick or get hurt, and it's important to know where to go when you need medical help quickly. There is an important difference between visiting urgent care and visiting the emergency room (ER).
Urgent care is for medical problems that are not life-threatening but need to be treated as quickly as possible (and cannot wait for an appointment with your regular doctor). Urgent care centers:
- Have doctors who can treat many different injuries and illnesses,
- Are open longer hours than most doctors’ offices (many are open late and on weekends).
- Have a much shorter waiting time to see a doctor and
- Are much cheaper than visiting the ER.
You can find an urgent care center near you using this search tool, or by typing “urgent care” and your city’s name in Google.
If your symptoms are very serious or life threatening, and require rapid treatment or surgery, you should either:
- Call 9-1-1, explain the medical emergency and ask for an ambulance, or
- Immediately go to the ER at a hospital.
Important: Going to the ER can be very expensive, especially without health insurance, but sometimes this is the best option to get the care you need. It is important for you to know what care options you have before you or a family member gets sick.
These resources share examples of when you should visit urgent care and when you should visit the ER:
- Should You Go to the Emergency Room or Urgent Care?
It’s important to know where you can go to see a doctor if you need a checkup, get sick, or hurt. Remember that whatever you share with your doctor is confidential and will stay between you and your doctor. Your information and any medical care you need will remain safe and private.
We have provided a list of some resources that can help you find a low-cost health clinic near you:
- NeedyMeds provides free information about medical programs that can help you if you can't afford medicine or healthcare costs. You can find the information on their website, or call the HELPLINE (800) 503-6897 to ask any questions. NeedyMeds also has a free discount card that can help make your medicine less expensive. Show the pharmacist the discount card along with your prescription for the medicine.
- The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) shows you where to find health centers in your area. Not all of these centers are free or low-cost. Find a Health Center close to you here: https://findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov/
- You can find free and low-cost clinics here: https://freeclinicdirectory.org/
Click on the state you live in on the map, then click on the county or city you live in. You will be provided with a list of clinics in that area. Some of these clinics will help you even if you don’t have health insurance.
- There are many migrant health centers that do not charge a lot and provide health care to farmworkers and their families. Una Voz Para La Salud (Call for Health) is a free health information and referral service program for farmworkers and their families: http://www.ncfh.org/callforhealth.html
Reach out to us and we can also refer you to the Medical Clinicians Network: https://www.migrantclinician.org/
- Planned Parenthood offers low-cost reproductive health care, regardless of immigration status. Find a center near you: https://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-center
IMPORTANT: COVID-19 testing, treatment and vaccines are free, no matter your legal status. Receiving testing, treatment or vaccinations paid for by the federal government will not affect your immigration status or be shared with immigration agencies. You also do not need health insurance to get these COVID resources and services.
COVID-19 can easily spread from person to person. It’s important to understand how to keep yourself, your family and your friends safe. The tips below can help you prevent catching and spreading COVID-19:
- Wash your hands frequently (or use hand sanitizer), especially when you are in public spaces and touching things that many others have touched.
- Cover your mouth with the inside of your arm or elbow when you cough or sneeze.
- Wear a mask when you’re in public and surrounded by a lot of people, even if the rules in your city say you may not need a mask. Wearing a mask protects you, your family and your community.
- Learn about how masks protect you: https://nrcrim.org/sites/nrcrim.umn.edu/files/2021-09/WearingAMask-F.pdf
- Learn about which masks are the best for protection: https://publichealthcollaborative.org/file/?id=7522
- Know what the COVID-19 symptoms are so that you can recognize when you, a family member, or friend might be sick. You can learn about what some of the COVID-19 symptoms are here.
- Take a COVID-19 test if you think you might have COVID-19 symptoms, and keep a safe distance from other people so you don’t infect them.
- Get vaccinated! to help prevent you from catching COVID-19, and help your body fight the virus better if you do catch it. COVID-19 vaccines are safe and available for children and youth over the age of 5. You can find more information about vaccines for children and youth here.
- Find where to get a free COVID-19 vaccine near you: https://www.vaccines.gov/
- Vaccine providers cannot require you to show proof of insurance or an ID to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Learn more about your rights regarding vaccination here.
- Even if you have been fully vaccinated, it’s important to also get a booster shot several months after your latest vaccine. You can find information about booster shots here.
Contact us if you need any help or would like more information about COVID-19 or if you have any other health questions!
Health insurance makes it easier and cheaper to visit a doctor in the US. We have provided some information about the different types of health insurance available in the US and how to apply for them below:
- Medicaid is the largest source of health care insurance coverage in the US. You do not need to be a US citizen to qualify for Medicaid, but for most states you must be living legally in the US (see the requirements here).
- If you do not have legal status in the US, you may qualify for emergency Medicaid, which covers access to healthcare during a medical emergency. See if you qualify for Medicaid in your state here.
- If you are undocumented and cannot qualify for Medicaid but are pregnant, your baby will be able to get Medicaid if they are born here.
- Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is health insurance for children in families that earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to buy private insurance. Each state has its own rules about who qualifies for CHIP. In some states, CHIP also covers pregnant women. See if you qualify for CHIP in your state here.
If you do not qualify for the above healthcare programs, don’t worry! Many states provide health care programs for immigrants, regardless of immigration status. Click on your state to see your insurance options:
If you do not live in any of the states above, contact us and we will help you find health care programs and resources in your area!
In California, Medicaid (known as Medi-Cal) is available to all children under the age of 26, regardless of immigration status. Apply online here or enroll in-person at your local County Social Services Office. You can also find free and confidential help (such as how to find someone to help you enroll, where to find storefronts, local offices, and events where you can sign up, and more) here.
The Illinois Coalition for Immigration and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) shares a few health options for immigrants living in Illinois. You can find the eligibility requirements here.
- All Kids is a program that provides free or low-cost healthcare coverage to children under 18 of low-income families, regardless of immigration status. You can apply online here or request a paper copy by submitting this form online, or calling the All Kids hotline at 1-866-255-5437.
The state of Massachusetts offers a few public health services for immigrants, regardless of immigration status (see below). Applying for public health insurance will NOT hurt your immigration status. MassHealth does not share any of your information with immigration officials.
- MassHealth Limited is emergency health care coverage for children, parents, pregnant women, disabled people and elderly people with low incomes and who do not have legal status in the US.
- Children's Medical Security Plan is for children under 18 with families that have low income.
- Healthy Start Program is a free health insurance program for pregnant uninsured low-income women, regardless of immigration status. The program offers prenatal care, two months of postpartum care, family planning services, counselling and referrals.
To apply for any of these programs, you can call 800-841-2900 and request an application, or you can fill out and download the application and send it to the following address:
MassHealth Enrollment Center
Central Processing Unit
P.O. Box 290794
Charlestown, MA 02129-0214
- Child Health Plus provides free or low-cost health insurance to children in New York under the age of 19 who do not qualify for Medicaid and who have no other health insurance. You may have to meet certain income requirements based on household size to apply for Child Health Plus; See the requirements here: https://www.health.ny.gov/health_care/child_health_plus/eligibility_and_cost.htm#medicaid You can apply online here: https://nystateofhealth.ny.gov/individual?lang=en
- Children under 19 can qualify for NJ FamilyCare regardless of their immigration status. You can apply online here: https://njfc.force.com/familycare/quickstart
- New Jersey offers a medical emergency payment program for immigrants who are New Jersey residents, meet the Medicaid eligibility requirements (except for immigration status), and recently had a medical emergency. For your emergency to be covered, you must apply within 3 months of the emergency. Inform the hospital staff that you want to apply and they will help you apply before you leave the hospital. Learn more about the program here: http://www.njfamilycare.org/imm_info.asp
- If you are pregnant, you may be eligible for the NJ Supplemental Prenatal Care program, which provides for prenatal care in clinics or hospitals. Through the medical emergency payment program, you may also qualify for labor and delivery treatment. You can call (609) 588-2911 to see if you qualify.
- Oregon Health Plan is free health coverage available to children under the age of 19, regardless of immigration status, whose families are low-income. To see if you qualify and to apply, you can call 833-647-3678 or fill out the “Find Local Help” form on this page.
The County Indigent Health Care Program provides health care services for those who live in Texas, don't qualify for Medicaid, and meet certain income and resource requirements. To see if you qualify and to apply for this program, you can:
- Find and contact your local office in your county: http://txclinics.dshs.texas.gov/chcl/
- Call 800-222-3986 (extension 2350) to see if you are eligible and how to apply
Washington state provides many benefits and programs that you can apply for, including cash and food assistance, health programs, childcare, and more. See the benefits and programs you can apply for here: https://www.hca.wa.gov/health-care-services-supports/apple-health-medicaid-coverage/non-citizens