Serving at THE PLAYERS Center for Child Health as a National Health Corps Florida AmeriCorps member has revealed to me that every individual does not have the right to be healthy. In today’s system, the right to be healthy is a privilege given to those who can afford health care and, as I recently discovered, those who are documented.
At 5:00 pm on a Thursday evening I was unexpectedly called upon to receive a Spanish-speaking mother and her adolescent son. Like many of the families I serve, the mother was looking to enroll her son in a health insurance plan within Medicaid. She stressed with glossy eyes that her son was referred to a cardiologist with urgent notice by primary care, but could not find a specialist to care for him. What she told me was specialists don’t accept patients without health insurance. On top of that, health care was needed now more than ever given the father had passed away from a heart attack and the older brother already had severe heart issues. Her son was in a race against time.
For the documented and financially eligible individual, this was just another day at THE PLAYERS Center. However, after a few minutes of inquiring about the family’s employment and identification I discovered the child was without a social security number. That’s when the narrative started to make sense. That’s when my heart joined the race and we began the search for a pro bono cardiologist
In the United States, individuals without a social security number or those living in the country after the expiration of their entry visa or parole documents – the undocumented, are barred from enrolling in a health insurance plan. Without documents, an individual cannot enroll in a health insurance plan and without a health insurance plan they cannot receive specialized care.
This was a fact I struggled to believe as my coworker and I tirelessly called every clinic in Northeast Florida. How could it be that no cardiologist was willing to accept a sick child? Even without a social security number, this child was still human. Communicating our failure to find care was the hardest conversation I had at my service site. In this health care system, the right to be healthy was not his.
Following few weeks of persistent emailing and calling with a fellow outreach coordinator, our team came in contact with a cardiologist who graciously accepted the patient pro bono. This effort to secure a child’s health care stuck with me because it wasn’t as simple as submitting an application for health insurance. As I come across the finish line in this race to treat an individual’s health, I have committed to a lifelong marathon to ensure that all humans have the right to be healthy.
This blog post was written by NHC FL AmeriCorps member, Jason Dossantos.
Jason serves at THE PLAYERS Center for Childhealth as a Care Coordinator.