Health care providers in St. Louis have been pushing to hire staff who can help new immigrants

With more people from other countries likely to arrive in the St. Louis area this year, refugee and immigrant advocates say making sure they can communicate with newcomers is crucial for health care providers.

The International Institute of St. Louis expects arrivals from Afghanistan, Ukraine, Haiti, Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela.

Language barriers and unfamiliarity with the nation’s health care system could make it difficult for some to understand the ins and outs of the U.S. health care system while trying to settle in, said Blake Hamilton, senior vice president of talent development and advocacy for the International Institute.

“It’s about understanding the benefits you get and what a co-payment is and the costs associated with a doctor’s appointment,” Hamilton said. “But it also means understanding your provider.”

Refugees receive initial health screening and health care for the first eight months in the United States, but then must purchase insurance, through an employer, or apply for public benefits.

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