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  1. #1
    Senior Member Brian503a's Avatar
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    May 2005
    California or ground zero of the invasion

    AL: What is the cost of health care for illegal immigrants

    What is the cost of health care for illegal immigrants
    By Jean Cole
    Staff reporter

    — One night on the job, Ricardo injured himself and was rushed to Athens-Limestone Hospital. The doctor on call that night thought Ricardo, not his real name, needed a specialist to perform surgery, so he was sent to University of Alabama Hospital at Birmingham. After surgery, Ricardo returned to Athens-Limestone Hospital and later went home.
    The local hospital got stuck with a $110,000 bill. Ricardo, an illegal immigrant, was uninsured.

    “With the current system, we are at risk of this happening,” said Randy Comer, compliance officer and reimbursement specialist for Athens Limestone Hospital. “(We) continuously hope that this does not occur again because, while the federal government provides an Illegal Alien Emergency Fund of $500,000 to the whole sate of Alabama, it’s used up in a flash and not available, and we are unable to recoup the cost of this individual’s much-needed health care. I would suggest that this is occurring throughout the country and is a situation that taxes the finances of most non-profit hospitals and facilities.”

    That is an understatement, according to a 2004 study by the Center for Immigration Studies, a non-profit, non-partisan research organization in Washington, D.C.

    In 2002, the United States spent $4.7 billion to cover Medicaid and treatment for uninsured illegal immigrants, according to the study.
    And those numbers are growing.

    The estimated cost of unreimbursed medical care in California alone was about $1.4 billion in 2004, according to the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR. In Texas, the estimated cost was about $.85 billion, and in Arizona the comparable estimate was $.4 billion per year.

    Unreimbursed medical care has caused 84 hospitals to close their doors in California, according to Dr. Madeleine Cosman in a 2005 article in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons.

    Athens-Limestone Hospital has seen nothing like the losses at hospitals in border states, but it has incurred some loss.

    Local, nonprofit hospitals like Athens-Limestone treat everybody regardless race, color, sex, national origin, age or disability, said Gina Hanserd, director of marketing, public relations, volunteers and physician recruiting. That includes legal status.

    In the past 12 months, the hospital treated 206 non-citizens — which includes illegal immigrants and immigrants who are not citizens but here legally — at a cost of $717,763. So far, the hospital has been reimbursed $94,290, or 13 percent, of the total.

    Overall, though, non-citizens represent only about 3 percent of the $7.5 million total that the hospital writes off for people who are unable to pay their bills, Comer said.

    The loss has not caused the hospital to ask for any additional tax money from the city or county, he added.

    How the local hospital fairs compared to other community hospitals in the state is unknown. The state Alabama State Hospitals Association does not have access to that data from hospitals statewide, according to spokeswoman Rosemary Blackmon.

    As lawmakers continue to talk about how to deal with the estimated 11 to 12 million illegal immigrants nationwide, local governments and community hospitals will continue to bear the costs.

    One proposal is to give some illegals guest-worker passes and eventually let them apply for citizenship. Opponents call this amnesty.
    Making illegals legal may be the solution for community hospitals, Comer said.

    “If given amnesty and determined legal citizens, they would be eligible for government provided healthcare resources, which would probably have a positive effect on community hospitals,” said Comer.
    Legal immigrant and Hispanic community leader Jose Guerrero believes those who come to America should try to go through the citizenship process.

    “The laws are the laws,” said Guerrero, a teacher at Clements High School who owns Hispanic Media. “I encourage immigrants to get legalized.”

    Guerrero hosts a radio program where he speaks with immigration lawyers and other experts who can help illegal pursue legal status. The program is spoken in a mix of Spanish and English.

    “The first thing I say to them is learn English,” he said. “I tell them you’ve got to assimilate and be a good citizen. Try to legalize.”
    He said he understands some of the uproar caused by the release of a Spanish language version of the National Anthem by a British music producer in April.

    “I tell them, you can be proud of being Mexican. You can be proud of the Mexican soccer team. But you are here, and this is the greatest country in the world.”

    As for medical care, Guerrero said many immigrants resort to home remedies for treatment or they “keep on suffering.”
    He refers them to the hospital, the Limestone County Health Department or to a pediatrician, he said.

    He praised the local businesses for their understanding.

    “A lot of medical facilities here are good about letting them make payments,” he said. Still, he would like to see some of the plants that hire immigrants to tell them about the medical benefits they are paying through payroll deductions.

    “They may be limited benefits, but the employer should provide an orientation,” he said. “A lot of people don’t know that they have it.”

    Emergency services
    Walk into an area hospital emergency room in the evening or on the weekend and you will typically find some Hispanics waiting to be seen by a doctor, sometimes they are illegal aliens.

    Most costs for illegal immigrants come from two areas — emergency services and mother/baby services.

    Like many uninsured or underinsured people, illegal immigrants often use the emergency room instead of a doctor’s office for medical care, which means they often don’t received and preventive care.

    “Because emergencies are unplanned, and the emergency room is often times the gateway to healthcare for the uninsured or underinsured in this community, non-citizens often find the emergency department their only option,” Hanserd said.

    According to FAIR, use of hospitals and clinics by illegal aliens (29 percent) is more than twice the rate of the overall U.S. population (11 percent).

    The cost of the medical care of these uninsured immigrants is passed on to the taxpayer, and strains the financial stability of the health care community.

    Forty-three percent of non-citizens in the United States under 65 have no health insurance, according to FAIR. That means there are 9.4 million uninsured immigrants, a majority of whom are in the country illegally, constituting 15 percent of the total uninsured in the nation in the mid-1990s, according to FAIR.

    At Athens-Limestone Hospital, sometimes the uninsured patient needs to be admitted to the hospital, which increases the cost.
    More than 50 percent of patients — citizens and non-citizens — hospitalized at Athens-Limestone Hospital are admitted through the emergency department, Comer said.

    “There is always the risk of catastrophic health conditions occurring with non-citizens. For instance, there is one case in particular where a patient presented to the emergency department and was hospitalized, then transferred to the University of Alabama in Birmingham for surgery and returned to Athens Limestone Hospital. The treatment, which occurred from March through May, cost Athens Limestone Hospital $110,000 in costs it could not recoup.”


    Babies are another cost.
    Much of the cost of illegal immigrants comes from their American born children. If an illegal immigrant bears a child while in the United States, the child is granted U.S. citizenship at birth. They are sometime called anchor babies because they allow the parents a tie to the United States.
    “Since children in the USA are citizens, they are awarded Medicaid per normal Medicaid processing,” said Alice Glanton, registered nurse for mother/baby services for Athens Limestone Hospital. “Immigrants who are pregnant can apply for Medicaid, which is federally funded, before their estimated delivery date.”

    In July 2004, Medicaid made emergency services available to hospitals in Alabama for delivery to non-citizens. The availability of Medicaid has actually helped community hospitals in the state, but it is still a cost to taxpayers.

    “Although Medicaid does not cover prenatal or postnatal care, it seems to encourage individuals to seek prenatal care so that they may access the available delivery funding and this ha been tremendously helpful to the hospital,” Glanton said. “Often times it negates mothers presenting to the emergency department in labor with absolutely no prenatal care, which is extremely risky for both mother and baby and the hospital as well.”
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  2. #2
    MW is offline
    Senior Member MW's Avatar
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    Jun 2006
    North Carolina
    The Sinking Lifeboat: Uncontrolled Immigration and the U.S. Healthcare System - Executive Summary

    File Attached - click here for more info

    Executive Summary
    America's health care system is in crisis: Costs and insurance premiums are skyrocketing, the number of the uninsured is rising rapidly, providers are reducing staffing and services and increasing rates, and hospitals are closing or facing bankruptcy.

    As states cut their health care budgets to try to make ends meet, high rates of immigration are straining the health care system to the breaking point.

    One out of every four uninsured people in the United States is an immigrant.

    When the 3.5 million immigrants receiving insurance through publicly funded Medicaid are factored in, almost half of immigrants have either no insurance or have it provided to them at taxpayers' expense.

    In some hospitals, as much as two-thirds of total operating costs are for uncompensated care for illegal aliens.

    Although a national total of annual unreimbursed medical expenses for illegal aliens is not available, it is clear that those costs are more than one billion dollars, given estimates for Texas ($393 million), Los Angeles ($350 million), Florida ($40 million), and U.S.-Mexico border counties ($300 million).

    The problem is on the rise: Immigrants (legal and illegal) who arrived between 1994 and 1998 and their children accounted for 59 percent of the growth in the size of the uninsured population in the last ten years.
    Federal laws requiring hospitals to treat anyone who enters an emergency room regardless of ability to pay have created an unfunded mandate for states and localities to fund health care for non-U.S. citizens and illegal aliens. Yet at the same time, lack of enforcement of federal laws against illegal immigration has led to a pool of nine to eleven million illegal aliens in the U.S.—and state and local taxpayers are being forced to foot the bill. Although immigration law enforcement is a federal responsibility, most hospitals receive little or no reimbursement for the care to immigrants that the federal government mandates that they provide.

    Lack of insurance leads many immigrants to use hospital emergency departments—the most expensive source of health care—as their primary care provider. Emergency room visits increased by 20 percent in the last decade. The problem has become so out of control that some Mexican ambulance companies are now instructing their drivers to drive uninsured patients across the border to the United States, where they will receive free treatment.

    The increase in uncompensated care for immigrants has forced some hospitals to reduce staff, increase rates, cut back services, and close maternity wards and trauma centers.
    The escalating burden incurred by hospitals and other health facilities for the uncompensated treatment of aliens is driven by both rampant illegal immigration and a legal immigration system that allows large numbers of people to gain permanent residence despite the fact that they are unlikely to be working in jobs with health care coverage or have personal resources sufficient to pay for health services.

    At the same time that Washington is neglecting to pick up the tab for aliens whom it has failed to prevent from settling here illegally, the problem is exacerbated by state and local policies that grant costly benefits to people who violate immigration law.

    Reversing the escalating burden of uncompensated health care for immigrants and illegal aliens will necessitate enforcing laws against illegal immigration; reimbursing states and localities for the costs of failures in federal immigration policy but denying reimbursement to communities that work against federal efforts to combat illegal immigration; identifying foreign users of publicly funded medical treatment (and their immigration status); establishing guarantees of medical bill payment prior to admission to the country; clarifying existing federal emergency service laws regarding the termination of a hospital's obligation for continuing care after the provision of emergency treatment to stabilize the patient.

    It will also require a change in public officials' mindset: Instead of shifting the burden to local taxpayers (often to those least able to pay when confronted with rising insurance premiums and medical bills), lawmakers must squarely face the consequences of immigration policy decisions. Our immigration system must be made consistent with U.S. national needs and priorities.

    Yet quite the opposite is occurring. At a time when the country is struggling to provide affordable care to millions of uninsured residents, President Bush's immigration proposal would bring in hundreds of thousands more uninsured—and officially sanction a massive illegal population already here and already draining health care funds from struggling communities.
    There's your answer Brian!

    "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing" ** Edmund Burke**

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