June 13, 2017
2 min read

AMA adopts policies to protect the health of immigrants, refugees

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The AMA voted to implement new policies that will improve and protect the health of immigrants and refugees seeking safe haven in the United States, according to a recent press release. Physicians from across the globe approved of these new policies as they gathered this week at AMA’s Annual Meeting.  

“The millions of refugees who have sought shelter in the United States need greater availability and access to health care insurance as these groups are typically at a higher risk for chronic conditions,” AMA President Andrew W. Gurman, MD, said in the release. “The medical profession’s response to disease is supported by minimizing gaps in health care and ensuring that all patients in need can access medical treatment, regardless of legal status.”

These new policies will focus on:

  • opposing detention of families seeking refuge in the U.S.;
  • improving medical care in immigration detention centers;
  • offering special consideration for American-born children of immigrant parents;
  • increasing access to health insurance for refugees in the U.S.; and
  • protecting the confidentiality of medical records for immigrant patients.

The policy adopted to provide protection to refugee families opposes the separation of children from their parents in immigration detention and the expansion of such detention centers. AMA will advocate to improve access to health care for detained families, especially women and children.

In response to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcements (ICE) failure to prevent human rights abuses, provide acceptable living environments and deliver access to quality medical care in their detention centers, the second AMA policy calls on ICE officials to revise medical standards to meet those set by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care. AMA will recommend that federal immigration enforcement not partner with private facilities that do not meet these set standards given that substandard care provided in ICE immigrant detention facilities has led to preventable deaths.

The AMA’s policy to allow consideration for American-born children of undocumented parents states that the organization will collaborate with local and state medical societies to address the importance of the welfare of these children in cases where the parents are in danger of deportation or detention.

“The AMA believes separating American-citizen children of immigrants from their parents has a negative impact on children, undermines the stability of a family, and that deportation proceedings should recognize these consequences,” Gurman said. “These children usually end up in foster care, a devastating outcome and a burden on society.”

Barriers to access health care due to cultural challenges, the health insurance application process and unfamiliarity with health programs hinder refugees’ ability to access health insurance. To minimize these gaps in health care, the AMA will adopt policy to support programs that remove language barriers and promote education about low-cost health care.

Another AMA policy will help protect medical records from being used by immigration enforcement officials as a source of actionable information on a patient’s immigration status

“[The] policy from the AMA comes in response to continuing challenges posed to physicians and their patients by immigration enforcement actions that place the safety and wellbeing of immigrant patients in jeopardy,” Gurman said in the release. “The new policy reinforces the AMA’s long-established opposition to any federal legislation requiring physicians to establish the immigration status of their patients or collect and report data regarding an individual patient’s legal resident status.” – by Savannah Demko

Disclosure: Gurman is the president of the AMA.