Washington, DC, United States (KaiserHealth) – Going to the doctor’s office can feel so routine. You sit in the waiting room, fill out the paperwork, get measured and hop onto the exam table.
But medical appointments for patients with disabilities require navigating a tricky obstacle course, full of impediments that leave them feeling awkward and could result in substandard care.
Despite laws that require ramps and wider doors for access, many health care providers don’t have scales that can accommodate wheelchairs, or adjustable exam tables for patients who can’t get up on one by themselves.
Dr. Lisa Iezzoni, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School who has multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair, said she went 20 years without properly being weighed. This can result in treatment plans, and even prescriptions, based on educated guesses rather than exact information, she said.
The Affordable Care Act was set to update standards for accessible medical treatment within the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which is enforced by the Justice Department. But the Trump administration stopped action on this change late last year as part of its sweeping effort to roll back regulations across the federal government.
“I was in shock when I heard that [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions’ Justice Department had pulled back on their rule-making,” said Iezzoni.
Denise Hok, 54, who lives in Colorado Springs, Colo., and uses a wheelchair, opts for home health care when possible and avoids doctors’ offices where “it feels like it doesn’t really matter if something is wrong.” When offices don’t have accessible equipment, she said, it “sends a message.”
But Garcia Manrique caught a break when President Barack Obama issued an executive order six years ago that created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. DACA offered more than 800,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. by their parents a chance to stay without fear of deportation.
From 2012 to 2016, medical schools from California to Massachusetts accepted roughly 100 DACA students, whose families hailed from Mexico, Pakistan, Venezuela and other countries. Garcia Manrique applied to nearly 40 schools. The Stritch School of Medicine at Loyola University Chicago, the first medical school to accept DACA students, was the only one that offered her admission.
Shortly after taking office in 2017, Trump rescinded DACA, a move that has become the subject of ongoing legal and political battles. If the law stands, Garcia Manrique will be allowed to stay in the U.S. But if it’s overturned, she and DACA medical trainees won’t be allowed to renew their work permits.
Garcia Manrique is finishing medical school and applying for a residency program to train in family medicine. Only two Georgia medical programs – at Emory University and Morehouse College – said they would consider a DACA recipient. She applied to both.
Of her 50 applications, Garcia Manrique received interview offers from nearly a dozen programs, including ones in Illinois, California and Washington. She hasn’t heard from the ones in Georgia.
And these days she isn’t sure if the Georgia she knew, and the Georgia she loved, is a place where she’d feel welcome.
“After a certain time of being looked down upon, being told ‘no,’ going the extra mile to get the same benefits, you get tired of that,” Garcia Manrique said. “I’ve seen many immigrants who have talent in the South move out. Why not be somewhere where you’re wanted?”
– Provided by Kaiser Health News.
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