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Washington immigrants got health coverage through Affordable Care Act

Community health leaders like Teresita Batayola of ICHS worry about the future of ACA.
Courtesy of ICHS
Community health leaders like Teresita Batayola of ICHS worry about the future of ACA.

The deadline to sign up for health coverage is coming up at the end of the month. So far, more Americans have enrolled for health insurance this year than in previous years. At the same time, Congress has taken steps to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

According to a recent federal report, more than 18 million Americans, many of them immigrants, could lose their insurance if the law is repealed.

Teresita Batayola recently traveled to Washington, D.C. Batayola is CEO of International Community Health Services. She and her colleagues who work with low income patients met with the state’s congressional delegation. They urged them to keep the Affordable Care Act.

Their message was simple: “We have seen it really make a difference in our communities and our patients,” Batayola said.

Before the Affordable Care Act, the number of uninsured patients at International Community Health Services was about 30 percent. These days it’s under 10 percent.

Many patients are immigrants and refugees. Like the Russian family that came to them. The child had special needs, and the father had Hepatitis C.

“He had not gone to doctor because he did not have coverage,” Batayola said. “But once he was able to enroll in coverage … he was able to seek care.”

Since the Affordable Care Act became law, more than half a million Washington residents gained coverage. It prohibited insurers from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions. It expanded Medicaid to cover older adults and people with disabilities.

Batayola said lawmakers who voted for the law’s repeal have assured her they would replace the law with something better. But it’s not clear yet what that would be.

Year started with KUOW: 1994