A staggering 85% of undocumented parents said they had to delay or forgo medical treatment for their child due to a lack of health insurance, according to PCCY’s latest report “Fulfilling Pennsylvania’s Promise to Cover All Kids.” This sad situation affects more than 24,000 children in Pennsylvania.
More eye-opening than the statistics are the emotional stories undocumented parents shared with PCCY about the daily worries they have about their child’s health. The story below is about “Miguel.” We are not using his real name. He is an 11 year old boy who lives in Bucks County.Miguel sits at the table pushing around the rice and beans on his plate with his fork. “Eat something, hijo,” his mother pleads. “I can’t,” he replies, wrapping his thin arms around his skinny frame. “My stomach hurts too much.” It’s been this way every night and a good part of most days for more than six months. Miguel, once an active, cheerful 11 year-old who loved sports, has lost a startling 30 pounds and turned into a listless homebody. He rarely goes outside to play with his friends for fear of an urgent attack of diarrhea. He’s missed more than 30 days of school, causing his grades to drop as he falls behind the rest of his class. His mother, a well-groomed, bright woman with short brown hair, is at her wit’s end with frustration. No matter how hard she tries to do the right things, she hasn’t been able to get her son the expert care she is well aware he needs. If Miguel were documented like her eight year old child, he would have gotten to a proper G.I. doctor months ago who’d have ordered the necessary tests to get to the source of his pain. What he’s had instead are occasional visits to a general clinic or health center where they prescribe medications that have done little to alleviate his chronic cramps and loose bowels. With expenses for rent, food and clothing, the family can barely afford to pay for these repeated visits. A few times, when his pain was really severe, there were trips to the emergency room, resulting in $4,000 in unpaid medical bills. Ultimately, it’s not just Miguel who is suffering. His unmet medical issues have affected the whole family, creating an atmosphere of constant stress. It’s a vicious cycle: the costs mount; the pain goes untreated; the anxiety increases. “All the time I’m worried,” says his mother. “All the year he’s sick and I am feeling so terrible because we can’t afford to see a specialist. I know something is wrong with my son and I know his health is important, but what can I do? There is only so much money we have. If only he had insurance, I could get him to the right place.”
Pennsylvania law prohibits undocumented children from enrolling in the state Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The state legislature can amend CHIP to cover ALL kids, including those who are undocumented. Click here to read more true stories from undocumented parents and read the findings of PCCY’s latest report.