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Barriers to COVID-19 Testing and Treatment

Randy Capps and Julia Gelatt
The Migration Policy Institute

Immigrants are among the most vulnerable U.S. residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some live in communities with high infection and death rates, and many work in frontline industries such as health care and food production where the risk of transmission is high. Yet, many immigrants face barriers to accessing testing and treatment because they do not have public or private health insurance coverage. The undetected and unchecked spread of the virus among any segment of the U.S. population risks driving further transmission to others, with severe consequences for communities across the country. And as it affects the health and wellbeing of essential workers, many of whom are immigrants, the spread of the virus places stress on the healthcare system, food supply, and access to other necessities for all.

As U.S. society responds to the outbreak, businesses are laying off millions of workers, and unemployment is rising. From mid-March 2020 through the start of May, more than 33 million U.S. workers became unemployed, with unemployment rising faster among immigrants than the U.S. born. Rapid job loss is leading to steep declines in employer-based health insurance coverage. In this context, immigrants—like other U.S. residents—are becoming increasingly dependent on publicly funded health care for screening and treatment, should they develop symptoms of the virus. But many immigrants who have not become U.S. citizens do not qualify for Medicaid—the main public health insurance program for low-income people—because of eligibility restrictions related to immigration status.

To access the complete fact sheet, please click on the online version of the Barriers to COVID-19 Testing and Treatment fact sheet.


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