Community college highlights complexity of immigrants

SCCCESLpresESL students attend an Affordable Care Act informational at South Seattle Community College.

South Seattle Community College hosted a spirited conversation on the Affordable Care Act in January.

Approximately 80 ESL students and staff at the college met with outreach specialists Callista Kennedy and Luis Salazar of Public Health – Seattle & King County, to discuss how the Affordable Care Act affects them.

Originally intended as a basic overview to the ACA, the open forum quickly revealed the enrollment complexities surrounding immigration and family status. 

Immigration status affects eligibility

“Many ESL students had ‘U visa’ status questions,” said Kennedy. They wondered whether that status made them eligible for insurance coverage under the new law. A “U visa” is granted to noncitizens who are victims of criminal activity in their native country. The U visa recipients are considered temporary residents, who are allowed to study and work — and they do qualify for coverage through Washington Healthplanfinder.

“There are many special status codes,” Kennedy explained. Each case requires individual examination, which can be time-consuming and confusing for applicants.

“Many students were also concerned about spousal eligibility and how to renew their children’s health care,” she said.

Help for foreign language speakers

King County has many resources for non-English speakers—including a site in Spanish, In-Person Assisters in more than a dozen languages, and community partners that work with specific ethnic and linguistic groups.

Partially because of the complexities, it’s common for members of the immigrant community seek out personal assistance, said Kennedy. The Healthplanfinder call-center (at 1-855-923-4633) has assistance in more than 100 languages, and King County offers in-person assistance at locations across the county.

Watch a video of the Public Health presentation here:

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