NYC Health + Hospitals Reaffirms Commitment To Keep Patient Immigration Status Private
In recognition of Immigrant Heritage Week, health system urges immigrant New Yorkers to "Seek Care without Fear"
Apr 15, 2019
NYC Health + Hospitals and the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs today re-released a joint open letter to New Yorkers in 14 languages making a promise that no one will question their immigration status when they seek care at any of the public hospitals or community health centers across the five boroughs. In what has become tradition to recognize Immigrant Heritage Week, NYC Health + Hospitals President and CEO Mitchell Katz, MD, and Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Bitta Mostofi reaffirmed the health system’s commitment to protecting the immigration status of New Yorkers and urged immigrants to seek care without fear. Improving health care access for immigrant New Yorkers is part of the City’s plan to guarantee coverage for all through the NYC Care program that NYC Health + Hospitals will officially launch this summer.
“More than 40 percent of our patients were born outside the United States. If they forgo the health services they need because of fear, we can see much of the progress we’ve made to keep New York City communities healthy come undone. We would see declining health outcomes across the city, more complicated pregnancies, premature births, and increased risk of spreadable disease,” said Dr. Katz. “But we are not going to allow any immigrant family suffer without the care they need and deserve. We want all New Yorkers to know that no matter what happens in Washington, NYC Health + Hospitals’ mission remains intact and our dedicated workforce will continue to provide care to all New Yorkers without exception.”
“While the Trump Administration attempts to undermine access to health care, particularly for immigrant communities, New York City remains open and welcoming to all, including at NYC Health + Hospitals facilities across the city, said Bitta Mostofi, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. It is critical for families to receive the care they need, without fear or concern and in your language. I want to thank Dr. Katz and the exceptional health practitioners at H+H for their unwavering commitment to serving immigrant New Yorkers.”
The open letter follows recent actions by the public health system to protect immigrants’ health. In December, Dr. Katz hosted legal and immigration advocates in protest of the federal “public charge” proposal– which would deny visa and green card residency status to immigrants who use government benefits like housing, food assistance and Medicaid – and could discourage more than a quarter million New Yorkers who currently receive care at NYC Health + Hospitals from continuing that care. And last June, health system leaders rallied to raise awareness about health risks associated with tearing apart immigrant children from their families, including the increased risk of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, and attention-deficit disorder.
“Our immigrant community must feel safe accessing basic services, and that includes our hospitals and healthcare facilities. This letter makes it clear the New York City is a welcoming place, and that no one will be denied healthcare services here because of their immigration status. I appreciate the NYC Health + Hospitals commitment to a fair and just city, especially as we recognize Immigrant Heritage Week,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
“New York is a city that welcomes and protects immigrants and thrives on our diversity,” said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried. “No one should be afraid to go for health care because of immigration status. I thank H+H for standing up to hostile and senseless federal policies.”
“As we celebrate Immigrant Heritage Week, it is crucial that we commit to protecting our neighbors and community members,” said Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz. “NYC Health and Hospitals – Elmhurst exemplifies this commitment by renewing their promise that no one on their staff will question anyone’s immigration status when they seek care at their hospital. Immigrants in our community are under constant attack by detestable and needless Trump-era policies that deal to them blow after devastating blow. However, we can now be assured that NYC Health + Hospitals/ Elmhurst is a safe space for all, and that it will continue to provide the highest quality care and service to the people in our District.”
“Immigration status should never determine an individual’s worthiness to receive healthcare,” said Assemblyman Marcos A. Crespo. “Families throughout all boroughs can rely on NYC Health + Hospitals to not only provide life preserving care, but also keep patient immigration status private. Thank you, NYC Health + Hospitals for respecting immigrant New Yorkers and striving every day to improve quality health care access for all.”
“Across the country, immigrant communities are under assault from a relentless Trump administration,” said City Council Health Chair Mark Levine. “In the face of such hostility – especially with changes to federal “public charge” rules to further scare immigrants from seeking public benefits – it’s more important than ever that New York make sure immigrants in our City know that they don’t need to be afraid of getting the care they need.”
Written in 14 languages, the reissued open letter assures immigrant New Yorkers that NYC Health + Hospitals remains committed to its mission to serve all New Yorkers, without exception, and regardless of immigration status. The letter underscores NYC Health + Hospitals’ commitment to protect patients’ right to privacy and keep immigrant status completely confidential.
The open letter will be distributed to community and immigrant advocacy organizations, as well as to media across the five boroughs. The letter is available in the top languages spoken by patients in the health system: English, Spanish, French, Haitian Creole, Russian, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Korean, Urdu, Bengali, Polish, Albanian, Hindi, and Arabic. It urges immigrants not to be afraid to go to any public hospital, emergency room, or community-based health center, and reinforces NYC Health + Hospitals’ policy against disclosing patient information.
Similar open letters were issued in 2006, 2007, 2011, 2016 and 2018 in response to heightened rhetoric and tensions concerning immigration laws.
To help uninsured patients determine if they are eligible for Medicaid and other available insurance coverage, NYC Health + Hospitals financial counseling staff ask patients for immigration information. NYC Health + Hospitals uses that information as part of the application process but does not record that information.