Maura had breast pain that started years ago and persisted through the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. With her long family history of cancer, Maura feared the worst and knew she needed a breast cancer screening. But because of her immigration status, she lacked access to healthcare resources.

Her husband, who is involved in a community-based organization called New Immigrant Community Empowerment, told her about NYC Care. The staff at NICE helped Maura enroll in the city-funded program. From there, she was assigned a primary care doctor at an NYC Health + Hospitals facility, a membership card showing the low cost of services and access to 24-hour dedicated customer service. Today, Maura gets regular cancer screenings.

Maura is one of the thousands of members taking advantage of NYC Care.

NYC Care is the largest healthcare access program in the nation, providing low- or no-cost comprehensive healthcare services to New Yorkers who are ineligible or cannot afford health insurance. Over the past two years, NYC Health + Hospitals and the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs have partnered with community-based organizations across the five boroughs to encourage immigrant New Yorkers to claim their right to healthcare. Through their relentless advocacy, the program surpassed its initial 50,000-member target and is nearing 100,000 active members.

Thanks to NYC Care, the city is leading the nation in recognizing healthcare as a human right. Even before the pandemic, the program provided vital access to women’s health and other specialty services, including monitoring, and preventing the long-term complications of diabetes and other chronic diseases .

But in March 2020, our world was upended as NYC became the epicenter of a global pandemic. Covid-19 ravaged our communities and exposed painful disparities within Black, brown, and immigrant communities, including the unequal access to healthcare. Our mission to bring affordable and quality healthcare to every New Yorker never felt more urgent.

NYC Care immediately reached out to its partners to support remote outreach and access to Covid-19 testing. We also pivoted our services to include enhanced telehealth access. Since March 2020, NYC Care has conducted nearly 200,000 telehealth appointments with its members. Since the beginning of the program, members have had over 500,000 primary and specialty care appointments.

Unfortunately, we know that many immigrant New Yorkers are hesitant to get the care they deserve, as many have put off seeing a primary care provider during the pandemic.

That is why we are encouraging everyone in the five boroughs to join our effort and reach 100,000 members. Enrolling 100,000 active members means thousands of New Yorkers, like Maura, will have sustainable access to critical and affordable healthcare.

Over the past two years, we collectively saw the importance of our public healthcare system in NYC. We are at a Covid-19 tipping point now, and with more New Yorkers getting vaccinated the light at the end of the tunnel is hopefully near. But the work to ensure all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, claim their right to healthcare, requires all of us to participate.

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about NYC Care or enroll, visit nyccare.nyc or call 1 (646) NYC-CARE (692-2273).

Marielle Kress is Executive Director of NYC Care at NYC Health + Hospitals and Raquel Batista is Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.

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