Graduate Student's Family Finds Hope in Free Local Clinic

Ariel S., Alachua County

My wife, my daughter, and I emigrated from Chile to the U.S. four years ago because I started a graduate school program in Gainesville, FL. It was mandatory for me as a student to have health insurance coverage, so I started off paying for coverage for my wife, my daughter, and myself during my first semester. I realized quickly that I would not be able to keep paying for coverage for the three of us because it ended up being incredibly expensive. I eventually obtained an assistantship at the university, which included health insurance coverage for me. However, my wife and daughter have been without health coverage since then, as the only option for their coverage is a private insurance plan. I only receive stipends for the research I conduct as part of my assistantship, so paying for a private plan is beyond our means. As a result, this has been a very sensitive situation for us as a family because we’ve had to live with the stress and uncertainty of where to turn if my wife and daughter were to need medical attention.


Given that our immigration status is that of “nonimmigrant alien,” my family and I cannot apply for any sort of public benefits. It was suggested to me that I should talk to a social worker to explore what options are available for my daughter since she is a child. When I called the phone numbers I was given to explore these resources, the conclusion was the same: She does not meet the requirements due to either not being born here, not having a Social Security number, or due to having an immigration status that does not meet the eligibility criteria. For three years, we simply thought there were no alternatives whatsoever. We knew that if my wife or daughter were to need some sort of health care service, it would be really expensive. This made us feel unprotected, vulnerable, and reluctant to seek help unless it was an emergency.


When it comes to oral health and dental care, I found out the hard way that accessing dental services is another complicated endeavor in the U.S. When my wife, my daughter, and I had health insurance during my first semester of graduate school, my wife experienced a dental emergency in the middle of the night. We went to the hospital and they unfortunately did not address the issue. When I received the bill for the visit, I found out that dental services were not covered by the health insurance plan we had. We ended up having to go to another dental provider the next day to address my wife’s issue, and it ended up being very expensive.


Throughout our first couple of years in the U.S., we luckily did not experience other major health concerns. However, my daughter ended up needing medical attention around a year ago. Thankfully, a friend of mine told us about the Equal Access Clinic, and we have been taking my daughter there for health care services ever since. We’ve taken her there three times already in the past year. We went from facing the stress that no alternative existed for my wife and daughter, to finding out the great news that they could access services through the Equal Access Clinic.


My family’s experience accessing health care in the U.S. has thus been a complicated one. For a long time, it was very stressful to imagine my wife or daughter getting sick and having nowhere to turn. A bit of that stress has been alleviated knowing that we have the Equal Access Clinic as a resource. The staff at the Equal Access Clinic are making a great contribution to society.