A federal deficit reduction bill has made it harder for immigrants — legal and illegal — to gain access to health care. Students from the College have recently taken action to assist Williamsburg, a city that has only recently received a large influx of immigrants, to cope with the legislation.
p. The students, sophomores Katie Ball and Allison Corbett, heard about the measure when it was passed last year.
As a result of the change, low income citizens are required to provide two forms of identification in order to receive the benefits of Medicaid.
p. “It is not in the best interest of our community to not allow these people access to health care,” Ball said. “Services in Williamsburg are not growing to meet the need. This requires an awareness of the issue from a health aspect.”
p. Ball, a Sharpe community scholar, emphasized the negative externalities associated with failing to subsidize the health care of these people. Externalities, an economics concept, result from a mismanagement of resources, and lead to negative spillover in society. As Ball explained it, people in the community are at greater risk of contracting an illness from someone unable to receive preventative health care.
p. “It’s just something that affects everyone, regardless of your opinions about immigration,” Ball said. “If you have an opinion about illegal immigration, you should attack it in a political realm. It’s a separate issue.”
p. Ball and Corbett, along with students Danielle Neale and Kim Parker, have started a letter-writing campaign, soliciting local businesses for money to create a fund to “offset recent changes in Medicaid.” Some local businesses contacted include the Williamsburg Homebuilders association and the Annheiseur-Busch Company.
p. As a Sharpe Community Scholar, Ball spent her freshman year working with the Virginia Department of Public Health to create culturally appropriate public health services in Williamsburg.
Also a Sharpe Community Scholar, Corbett spent last year teaching English as a second language. She also worked as an interpreter for a medical mission trip to the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
p. “Everybody does deserve the right to education and health care regardless of legal status,” Corbett said.
p. Corbett could not confirm any numbers more recent than 2000 on Hispanics of either legal or illegal status, but did say that an influx of immigrants in Williamsburg is a relatively “new phenomena.” The Hispanic population in Virginia doubled between 1990 and 2000, from 2.6 percent to 4.7 percent.
p. The Olde Towne Medical Center, located in James City County, provides medical care to uninsured, Medicare or Medicaid residents. However, without Medicaid coverage, some residents cannot even afford the relatively low-cost treatments available at the Medical Center. This becomes particularly problematic when residents must choose between preventative care and basic necessities.
p. “While Congress is dealing with whatever they’re planning to do with immigrants or decreasing illegal immigrant flow to the United States they should still be aware of the fact that we do have a strong presence of immigrants both here legally and illegally,” Corbett said. “And they are a real part of the economy and are a real part of the community and are going to affect us all.”
In addition to their letter-writing campaign, Corbett and Ball are planning a campus thrift sale to support the fund. They are currently seeking donations.