Buffering the Uneven Impact of the Affordable Care Act: Immigrant-serving Safety-net Providers in New Mexico

Photo Credit: C. Getrich


We conducted a study in early 2014 to document how the initial implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) affected health care provision to different categories of immigrants from the perspective of health care providers in New Mexico. Though ACA navigators led enrollment, a range of providers nevertheless became involved by necessity, expressing concern about how immigrants were faring in the newly configured health care environment and taking on advocacy roles. Providers described interpreting shifting eligibility and coverage, attending to vulnerable under/uninsured patients, and negotiating new bureaucratic barriers for insured patients. Findings suggest that, like past efforts, this recent reform to the fragmented health care system has perpetuated a condition in which safety‐net clinics and providers are left to buffer a widening gap for immigrant patients. With possible changes to the ACA ahead, safety‐net providers’ critical buffering roles will likely become more crucial, underscoring the necessity of examining their experiences with past reforms.