Access to Healthcare Secured for Three-Year-Old
San Juana Gonzalez, a permanent resident of the U.S., returned to Cleveland after a year-long visit to relatives in Mexico. Her five children, all U.S. citizens, were due for vaccinations. Since their coverage had lapsed during their time abroad, Ms. Gonzalez reapplied. The youngest, three-year old Hursula, had no birth certificate on record and due to this, the caseworker said that all the children would be denied.
Ms. Gonzalez and her husband, a U.S. citizen and a cook at a Westlake restaurant, went to Cleveland City Hall to request a birth certificate for their youngest daughter, but the city also had no record of Hursula’s 2006 birth at MetroHealth Hospital. The little girl remained without both healthcare and the document essential for her enrollment in school, procurement of a passport or a driver’s license, and even, one day, a marriage license.
The case was referred to Legal Aid attorney Megan Sprecher via the MetroHealth System social services department. Ms. Sprecher began a series of attempts to secure Hursula’s birth certificate and eventually requested a state hearing. Ms. Sprecher was able to prove eligibility: Hursula was a citizen with a hospital-issued proof of birth letter, and her parents and attorney had made multiple good-faith efforts to secure a birth certificate. Hursula’s benefits, including retroactive coverage to the date of her birth, were reinstated.
Healthcare was especially important to the Gonzalez family this past spring, when all the children were sick with what Ms. Gonzalez feared was the H1N1 influenza virus (commonly known as “swine flu”). She was able to take them to a doctor who reassured her that the symptoms were from other ailments.
A few days later, Ms. Gonzalez watched her healthy children jump on and off the couch and, speaking through an interpreter, said, “I couldn’t have done this without help. Things are looking a lot brighter.”