Sara Cullinane

  • Hosted by Make the Road New York
  • Sponsored by Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP
  • Service location Brooklyn, New York
  • Law school New York University School of Law
  • Issue area Health Care, Immigrant Populations
  • Fellowship class year 2012
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Sara worked to ensure New York’s immigrant families gain access to quality, affordable health care as New York implements federal health care reform.

Low-income immigrant families face unique obstacles to accessing health care, including complex insurance eligibility rules, language barriers, and the fear that accessing public benefits will lead to deportation. Though many lawfully residing immigrants are eligible for public insurance, few access such benefits. Lack of insurance, coupled with poverty, leads to profoundly poor health outcomes. New York’s overhaul of its health care system in response to the federal Affordable Care Act exacerbated the challenges for immigrants, but also provided an opportunity to dismantle systemic barriers to accessing health care. Immigrant New Yorkers need legal representation, community education, and strategic policy advocacy to benefit from the historic health care reform.

Fellowship Highlights

During her Fellowship, Sara:

  • Helped pass a state law that protects New Yorkers from surprise medical bills from out-of-network providers
  • Provided legal advice, brief services, and referrals to more than 400 individuals
  • Fully represented 200 immigrant families in health care matters
  • Helped a low-income immigrant client eliminate $138,000 of medical debt accumulated from out-of-network providers in an emergency situation
  • Trained dozens of advocates, attorneys and community health care workers on immigrant eligibility for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act

Next Steps

Sara took on a leadership role in building Make The Road New Jersey, a new sister organization dedicated to providing high-quality holistic services and giving a voice to immigrants in New Jersey. In this role, she is able to continue working in the area of health care law and advocacy, especially as it relates to the rights of immigrant families.

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