The Health Needs of Undocumented Older Adults: A View on Health Status, Access to Care, and Barriers

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Executive Summary:

An estimated 3 million undocumented immigrants reside in the state of California. Undocumented older adults do not qualify for public benefits, including health care, even though many pay taxes. Health for All aims to provide comprehensive, affordable, and accessible care by expanding coverage to undocumented adults whose incomes are at or below 138% of the federal poverty level. If coverage was expanded to include adults regardless of immigration status, it is estimated that 25,000 older adults (65+) would qualify for full scope Medi-Cal. This report focuses on Latinxs who represent approximately 70% of the undocumented population.

As undocumented Latinxs elders age, they will be subjected to the same illnesses that afflict other senior citizens, often among the most expensive to treat: chronic diseases, cognitive disorders, and physical injuries. Diabetes, tuberculosis, and kidney failure are the most common illnesses among the older undocumented community. While undocumented older adults may experience high health needs as they age, their precarious status and other barriers precludes them from accessing care.

The study, UndocuElders in the IE, aimed to shed light on the experiences of undocumented older adults’ health status and process of accessing care. In-depth semi-structured interviews were used to facilitate dialogue with undocumented older adults (N=30) ages 55-63 (M=61.67, SD=5.50). Most of the participants were Mexican (n=26, 87%) and had lived in the U.S. on average 21 years (SD=8.78) (Download the report below for the full executive summary)

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