Ineligible For Obamacare, Immigrants May Continue To Face Debt And Poor Health

Maria Cabrera owed $57,000 dollars after she suffered a heart attack and ended up in an Albuquerque hospital.

“Once I was out of the hospital, I got completely in debt,” Cabrera said. “The debt was so large that I don’t even know what’s going on.”

A large amount of that debt was cut down through financial assistance, but she says the debt collectors are still calling, and she’s unclear of just how much she owes.

“It’s more difficult to live with this situation than it would be if I would have died and it all would have ended,” Cabrera said. “I wouldn’t have to deal with this: living in debt that’s so high and living with such a difficult situation.”

One in four families in America currently faces medical debt. The Affordable Care Act aims to curb issues with health care access, and in turn lessen debt.  But in an Obamacare America, some populations continue to be barred from access and could still be facing mounting bills.

Cabrera’s story isn’t uncommon, but the twist here is her immigration status. She’s in the country legally, with documents, but has been waiting for her green card for almost 13 years. Because of her status, she’s ineligible for Medicaid and cannot work. That means she can’t pay her bills.

Listen to the story here at the Fronteras Desk.

Tristan Ahtone

Tristan Ahtone is a member of the Kiowa Tribe and serves as associate editor for tribal affairs at High Country News. He has reported for PBS NewsHour, National Native News, Wyoming Public Radio, NPR, Al Jazeera America, Indian Country Today, and National Geographic, and more. Tristan’s stories have won multiple honors, including investigative awards from Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Gannett Foundation. He additionally was awarded a Nieman Fellowship to study at Harvard University in 2017. He is president of the Native American Journalists Association.

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