I recently received a reminder from my doctor’s office that I was due for my annual mammogram, so I called to schedule an appointment and then crossed it off my list. Easy. That’s the way it should work for everyone, but it doesn’t.
Women (and womxn) are already at a disadvantage when it comes to good health, due to a variety of ways our health care system and other institutions are designed. Women are less likely to have their pain taken seriously. We’re less likely to earn a salary that lets us afford healthy lifestyles and good health care. We have been excluded from Congress and other positions of power that make laws that affect our health. However, I was still able to make and afford an appointment for preventive care because I have health insurance, a privilege that is not available to millions of women, sometimes due to their immigration status.
Health insurance is a critical factor in making health care affordable and accessible to women. The Affordable Care Act expanded access to coverage and a lot of women benefited, however, coverage options for immigrant women remain limited. In Colorado, nine percent of adult women were uninsured in 2017. Of all immigrants, 24 percent of those who are lawfully present and 47 percent of those who are undocumented are uninsured.
Immigrant women face major structural barriers to good health, including access to health insurance. This includes women who have legal status and those who are undocumented. Research by The Commonwealth Fund found that immigrant women are less likely to have health insurance and access some essential health services than US-born women, which increases the risk of poor health outcomes.
Immigrant women are vital members of our community and our future, and they deserve access to health insurance. Federal and state policymakers could improve the health of immigrant women by expanding health insurance eligibility and strengthening our health care safety net system. Employers could improve the health of immigrant women by expanding employer-sponsored health insurance options and increasing salaries to make coverage more affordable. And, Colorado will be most successful in expanding access to health insurance for immigrant women if we make space for immigrant women to lead the way.
At Center for Health Progress, we’re trying to do just that, because we believe it’s the only way to create an equitable health care system. When we exclude those most impacted from the decision-making table, we end up with institutions and policies that leave us all worse off. We need a health care system that works for all Coloradans, and the leadership and power of immigrant women is the best and only way we’ll get there.