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American College of Physicians says National Policy Needed
to Address Current Inadequate System
SAN DIEGO, April 7, 2011 -- As the U.S. immigrant
population grows it will be necessary to address the vast number of
immigrants who do not have access to health insurance coverage, or
who face other barriers to accessing health care, the American
College of Physicians (ACP) said in a new policy paper released
today at Internal Medicine 2011, ACP's annual scientific meeting.
Immigration Policy and Access to Health Care
discusses the challenges immigrants face in obtaining health care
"Currently immigrants, both documented and undocumented, face
many barriers to adequately accessing badly needed health care,"
said J. Fred Ralston, Jr., MD, FACP, president of ACP. "They are
more likely to lack health insurance than U.S. citizens; they may
lack the funds necessary to pay for health care services without
insurance; and, they may face the additional barrier of being
fearful that seeking medical attention may lead them to be reported
In order to address these concerns, ACP is calling for the
development of an immigration policy on health care that
"Access to care for immigrants is a public health issue
that should be of concern to all of us," continued Dr. Ralston.
"Take the case of immigrants with tuberculosis; under the current
system they may be afraid that going to a hospital to seek
treatment would place them at risk for deportation. If they decide
to delay care because of this fear, it could increase the number of
people exposed to the disease exponentially. Imagine if those same
immigrants were not only unafraid to visit the hospital, but they
were receiving regular primary care services. They may be treated
before experiencing any symptoms and decrease the public exposure
that much more."
The new policy will need to be complex to adequately reflect the
complexity of the issue. It will need to take into
"Any national immigration policy will need to balance the
legitimate needs and concerns to control our borders and to
equitably differentiate in publicly-supported services for those
who fully comply with immigration laws and those who do not,"
concluded Dr. Ralston. "However, access to health care for
immigrants is crucial to the overall population of the U.S. We all
have a vested interest in ensuring that all residents have access
to necessary care."
About the American College of Physicians
The American College of Physicians is the
largest medical specialty organization and the second-largest
physician group in the United States. ACP members include 130,000
internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists,
and medical students. Internists specialize in the prevention,
detection, and treatment of illness in adults. Follow ACP on