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"Medical Privacy Applies to Undocumented Immigrants" by Lori Abrams Berry

Many of us have worried that an unintended consequence of health care reform would be the isolation of undocumented immigrants as the only people left uninsured and without access to health care in Massachusetts. So far, the regulations being discussed by EOHHS appear to allow for a safety net of health care access at community health centers for low income people who are not eligible for Commonwealth Care.

Even so, we are hearing from outreach workers in the community that many undocumented immigrants are laying low, hiding, not revealing their addresses. At least one Spanish radio station has apparently been featuring several stories of immigration officials separating families. Listeners are led to believe that the community health centers are obligated under law to report any undocumented patients to immigration officials.

We need to find as many ways as we can to put the word out that community health centers are NOT obligated to report undocumented patients to immigration authorities. On the contrary, HIPAA regulations actually prohibit us from giving information about our patients to anyone without their permission. (Who knew how handy this would turn out to be?)

It is important that we find a way to make sure everyone feels safe accessing basic health and human services in their community.

Lori Abrams Berry
Executive Director, Lynn Community Health Center

This program aired on July 19, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.

Martha Bebinger Twitter Reporter
Martha Bebinger covers health care and other general assignments for WBUR.

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