Refugee seeks affordable healthcare

By

November 7th, 2013

Omaha, NE  — Andreya Mayom has lived in Omaha seven years without health insurance.

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According to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, refugees are given short-term health insurance called Refugee Medical Assistance, which is only available for up to eight months.

Andreya Mayom fills out an application for the Affordable Care Act with the help of Stephanie Torres from the Charles Drew Health Center. (Photo Courtesy KVNO News)

Andreya Mayom fills out an application for the Affordable Care Act with the help of Stephanie Torres from the Charles Drew Health Center. (Photo Courtesy KVNO News)

Mayom spent his first seven months in the United States living in Phoenix, Ariz., before relocating to Omaha.

“I have been living here without health insurance and my income is low and I can’t afford the one from work,” Mayom said. “I decided not to enroll with them because that one is expensive. I don’t have anything they can take from my pay roll.”

While Mayom’s six children are covered under Medicaid, he and his wife have to look elsewhere, which is why he decided to attend a free health fair sponsored by Bridge to Care.

“Bridge to Care is a student run organization that helps newly resettled refugees in the Omaha area find a way to get medical help,” said Andrew Lemke, student president of Bridge to Care.

The organization is housed under the Service Learning Academy of the College of Public Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

The group of students and volunteers have reached more than 2,500 refugees, according to Chelsea Souder, an Americorps representative for Bridge to Care.

“The goal is to make them more self-sufficient and increase their access to care,” Souder said. The camps and conditions that they are used to are 100 percent different from anything that we could ever imagine. A lot of the health services, such as vision and dental, they’ve never even received or seen anybody for that.”

While most people have had routine tests to test blood pressure and blood sugar levels, it was a first for Mayom.

“I’ve never gone for a test because I’ve never had health insurance. I’ve lived all these years without health insurance–thanks to God that I’m healthy since I came from Africa,” Mayom said. “Today they found my blood sugar was a little higher and my blood pressure is up a little bit. These are things that I know today and had never known this before.”

Lauren Hinkle, a UNMC nursing student, helped Mayom navigate the health fair. She said assisting Mayom has her considering pursuing other avenues to help the refugee population.

“I didn’t really realize how many refugees needed help. I’m helping this gentleman out and he told me he’d never had a blood pressure check and that’s shocking to me because we’re in the United States and we think that everyone gets that all the time,” Hinkle said.

L-R Chelsea Souder and Andrew Lemke volunteer with Bridge to Care. (Photo Courtesy KVNO News)

L-R Chelsea Souder and Andrew Lemke volunteer with Bridge to Care.
(Photo Courtesy KVNO News)

Mayom was able to sign up for the Affordable Care Act at the fair with the help of a representative from the Charles Drew Health Center. Although he has been able to find a steady job, buy a home and provide for his family, he said having affordable health insurance will make his life in Omaha that much better.

“People like us…poor people like us…refugees who have been in this country for a long time without insurance will be able now to get one. This is a good thing. I’m personally happy for this to happen,” Mayom said.

According to the Refugee Health Technical Assistance Center, under the Affordable Care Act, refugees will enjoy the same benefits as U.S. citizens such as prohibiting lifetime benefit limits and rescissions. They will also be able to purchase insurance through exchanges and may qualify for premium tax credits to purchase coverage.

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