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Relocated Refugees Need Better Health Care

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Health care providers in Rochester, N.Y., will convene on Monday to discuss how to address a recent influx of refugees in the city that is expected to continue in the near future, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reports. In the past 12 months, nearly 600 refugees have come to Rochester, according to the Democrat and Chronicle. According to the Department of State, 60,000 refugees were resettled throughout the U.S. this year. Jim Morris, associate director for refugee services for Catholic Family Center, which works with all refugees being resettled in the city, said, "We're looking at it as an opportunity to get more health providers involved. This is really a community health issue."

Federal and state law requires refugees to be screened for communicable diseases and other health issues, but they also often have other health care needs, including vaccinations, treatment for infectious diseases and mental health treatment, according to the Democrat and Chronicle. Federal programs pay for the initial costs of the screenings and vaccinations, and additional care is covered under Medicaid. In Monroe County, N.Y., new refugees represent 1% of the Medicaid population.

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According to the Democrat and Chronicle, many providers in the area do not treat Medicaid beneficiaries because of lower reimbursement rates. In addition, most refugees need language interpreters, a service not covered under Medicaid. At one private health care clinic that treats refugees, the cost of providing interpreters who speak more than 20 languages is $200,000 annually.

Morris said the national refugee resettlement program is underfunded. The Catholic Family Center receives $570,000 -- about $950 per refugee -- to help provide comprehensive case management, such as housing help, job placement, learning English, and applying for Medicaid and food stamps.

Jay Piper, director of English for speakers of other languages at the Rochester School District, said, "It is a strain on our system. There's a lot of money involved," adding, "But we have to take measures to serve them because they're here; they're part of our community" (Swingle, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, 10/30).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.