Immigrants and community members were invited by National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum to share their stories about the health care system on Saturday in front of Arizona and national leaders.
Congressman Greg Stanton, representing Arizona’s 9th Congressional District, and state representative from District 30 Raquel Teran, as well as local leaders and advocates, listened to people discuss their medical care experiences in the U.S. at the Japanese American Citizens League Hall in Glendale.
In his opening remarks, Stanton said that his purpose at the event was simply to listen — not to contribute to the conversation.
“It’s my primary job duty to listen, and you’d be surprised at the number of the most profound and impactful laws in our nation started in a room just like this — good people of good mind, good will listening to each other and then trying to take appropriate action,” he said.
Teran, in her remarks, described the inequality faced by people in her district, Arizona House of Representatives District 30, saying that citizens there, where the median income is about $29,000, “die of being poor.”
“Because of lack of prevention, because of no access, because of fear — we have a lot of people who are undocumented — and this is a moment where we have to move the conversation that this is not just a privilege; this is a right. Health care is a human right."
Teran expressed the need to both protect the Affordable Care Act, which she said is “under attack every day” and to fight for more comprehensive health care coverage for Americans.
“We’re in protection mode, but there’s going to come a time, and hopefully, it’s next year, where we’re going to go for the whole enchilada … because we’re going to have that capacity.”
Zeenat Hasan, who serves as thechair for NAPAWF in Arizona, told the group how her father is currently suffering from organ failure from untreated diabetes; he did not have health insurance nor access to health care for much of his life. Hasan said her father's condition "doesn’t have to be the trajectory for everybody."
"He could have had his diabetes checked and treated as a young man, rather than have full organ failure at this point in his life," Hasan said.
Layal Rabat, the program director for Asian Pacific Community in Action, was one of the community members to share their stories. Rabat said that her family, who immigrated from Syria, struggled with the health care system after her mother had trouble breathing and was diagnosed with asthma.
“When you speak Arabic and you are going to the doctor, you’re not really going to get an interpreter a lot of the time … There was a lot of miscommunication and confusion,” she said.
Rabat said she uses her role as an empowerment and advocacy manager for the Asian Pacific Community in Action to make sure that immigrants know their rights when going to the doctor and know of the resources that are available to them.
“I think it’s really important that we continue to advocate for health care for everybody, no matter who they are, and to be able to push for better access for our communities and ensure that care is not just accessible for our communities, where you can just go to a provider, but that — that provider is culturally competent, respectful to you and knows you have a right to language access.”