In the spring of last year, two pregnant women arrived at Abigail Sue’s home in Iowa from Myanmar with hopes of seeking prenatal care. Sui, a program director who has been working for EMBARC, an Iowa-based nonprofit that supports immigrants for eight years, figured she could help these women navigate the healthcare system. However, when she tried to advocate for them, not many listened.
The women are in the country on visas, but they are unable to get Medicaid due to a federal statute that prevents many foreign nationals, even those with green cards and visas, from obtaining public assistance for the first five years of their stay in the country. States have the option to exclude pregnant women from this waiting time. However, a lot of states have not done so yet. Among the states who have yet to do so include those in the Midwest, such as Missouri, Indiana, and Iowa.
Neither of the women were able to obtain affordable coverage right away through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace or plans provided by their husbands’ jobs. So, Abigail Sue found that their only option was to sign a contract with a nearby hospital committing to pay for prenatal treatment out of pocket. Sui said that one of the women struggled to make decisions and missed out on prenatal treatment during her first and second trimesters, which resulted in a hefty cost when she finally did go in for an appointment.