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2nd Wednesday Speaker Series Spotlight on Immigrant Health 

By Ron Lovell

In November’s Second Wednesday Speaker Series, Sasha Wasserstrom, Policy Director at Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network (WAISN), the largest immigrant-led coalition in Washington state. Sasha highlighted the coverage and gaps of the landmark 1332 waiver that provides health care for immigrants regardless of status. While a good start, only about 3% goes to Community Based Organizations for outreach and education.

Sasha also introduced the Health Equity for Immigrants Campaign, a major project of WAISN, and concluded with WAISN’s 2024 legislative agenda.

Read on for further discussion of the Health Equity for Immigrants Campaign and action items.

What is the Health Equity for Immigrants Campaign (HEIC)

All Washington residents should have access to health care services regardless of income or immigration status. The HEIC fights to ensure health access by expanding already existing programs such as health insurance coverage. The HEI coalition includes community organizations, providers and advocates working to improve health access and outcomes for all Washington residents. We work to uplift community-identified priorities and address the gaps in coverage and services that prevent immigrants from receiving equitable access to affordable care.

Our current challenges?

Over the years, federal restrictions and state austerity cuts have left immigrants, many who work in the most dirty, dangerous and disgusting jobs, without health care. In recognition of this, the WAISN coalition advocated for Washington's landmark 1332 waiver that allows every Washingtonian access to health coverage starting January 2024 via WA Healthplanfinder regardless of immigration status. However there are gaps. 

Funding

Not enough funding for full coverage of impacted community members. 

There are currently 100K immigrants and refugees who do not have health coverage. More than a third of those people are projected to be eligible for AppleCare Expansion. The current funding covers no more than 10K people.

Not enough funding for community outreach 

Of the $3.7 million allocated for outreach, customer support and implementation, only $100K was distributed to only 11 organizations across 21 counties. This funding is for community based organizations to conduct culturally appropriate outreach and education. However, about 9k dollars per CBO will not allow all of our folks to be equitably informed on how to access this new program. 

Insurance costs are too high and inequitable. 

Individuals are set to have to pay high monthly premiums, receiving $250 of state subsidies. This lowers costs but without federal subsidies folks are still paying significant costs out of pocket compared to citizens who are fully covered. 

What’s to come? 2024 Legislative session

During the 2024 legislative session the Health Equity for Immigrants Campaign will introduce a budget proviso again.

The coalition will advocate for Increased funding for: 

  • AppleCare Expansion to ensure increased coverage of vulnerable community members.
  • community-led outreach and a community accountability council.
  • to develop and implement short and long term waitlist systems for AppleCare expansion.
  • a report to the legislature with a plan to cover all people eligible and expected to enroll in the AppleCare expansion program for the 2025-2027 biennium.

How to get involved 

Join WAISN Action Network

Organizational sign-on letter in support of Health Equity for Immigrants Campaign

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