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Guest OP-ED: Cover all kids now, or pay the price later on: my healthcare story – Cover All Kids

My name is Onion. I am a 26 years old, first-generation Korean-American immigrant. I live in Falls Church, VA right now and I have grown to love this area for the past 20 years. 

I live 10 minutes away from the INOVA hospital. The fire departments, EMS, and other human services provided in Fairfax County are regarded as some of the best in the nation. However, people in this area still struggle to find basic healthcare resources because of their immigration statuses. 

In Virginia, children who are citizens have an uninsurance rate of about 4%. But children who are undocumented have an uninsurance rate of 48% – 12 times more than citizen children. This should come at no surprise, since undocumented immigrants in Virginia aren’t eligible for Obamacare or Medicaid. And when parents have little to no options for health coverage through their jobs, what are their kids supposed to do? 

Growing up, I was one of those kids. I grew up low-income and without health coverage because I was undocumented. I grew up knowing that going to a hospital during an emergency was not an option for me. I grew up my whole life without regular checkups, and the haunting realization that I had nothing to fall back on except luck when it came to my health.

I remember having to refuse an ambulance and refusing to go to that very INOVA hospital that I live 10 minutes away from. I remember breaking my ankle and having to find under-the-table treatment because the costs of medical bills would have been too much for my family to handle. I remember feeling like these were the best choices I could make to keep myself alive and make sure my family could still pay for rent and bills. 

Children shouldn’t have to make these decisions. No child should worry about if their family has enough money to pay for their healthcare. Without more options, families like mine have to make difficult choices. Choices like putting food on the table or making sure their child is healthy. 

We should all strive to take care of all children, regardless of their immigration status. Virginia lawmakers can choose to make this a reality by supporting a bill in our legislature right now: Senate Bill 1327. I support this bill because our children – children like me – deserve peace of mind. They deserve to live life confidently knowing that they are safe, that their health is covered, and that they have professionals ready to help them if they need it. The state would need to invest just $19 million over the next 2 years to make this a reality for over 13,000 kids. And, to that, I say this: if we don’t invest in our communities when they are young, we will have to pay for our complacency in the future. 

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By vascope