Skip to comments.Feds to pay for treating ailing illegal immigrants
Posted on 05/11/2005 4:30:01 AM PDT by bikepacker67
Hospitals, doctors and ambulance services in Arizona and other border states can bill the federal government for emergency care they provide to illegal border entrants beginning today.
An amendment to the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 authorized $1 billion in payments to hospitals and other providers in states along the Mexican and Canadian borders starting last Oct. 1.
Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., was the chief architect of the amendment, based on a study he commissioned four years ago to assess the impact of uninsured illegal entrants on border-state hospitals. Federal law requires them to provide emergency care to anyone who comes through their doors, but it provided no reimbursement.
Arizona will receive up to $45 million a year for the four fiscal years that began last Oct. 1. Payments will be retroactive to that date, the government promised Monday when it issued reimbursement guidelines.
"This is hugely important to our hospitals everywhere in Arizona, especially along the border, but hospitals throughout the state will benefit," said John Rivers, president and CEO of the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association.
"Sen. Kyl's persistence has really been the key in getting this legislation passed and getting the monies released," Rivers said. "It represents an acknowledgement by the federal government that it is, indeed, its responsibility to pay for undocumenteds. That has never before been expressly stipulated."
University Medical Center in Tucson operates Southern Arizona's only trauma center and gets the largest share of illegal entrants requiring emergency care.
Since Oct. 1, UMC has incurred up to about $10 million in charges on foreign nationals, said Greg Pivirotto, the hospital's president and CEO.
"Our best estimate at this time is that we will collect 30 percent of those charges," he said.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued 73 pages of reimbursement guidelines Monday, "and we are all still sifting through them," Pivirotto said.
One point that needs to be clarified, he said, is the government's reference to "illegal aliens and certain other legal aliens."
"A large number (of immigrants) are in this country legally, and then they have health-care needs," Pivirotto said. "So we have to look at that category."
The $45 million for Arizona health-care providers "is not a solution at all in the sense that it doesn't address the border issue, but it's a help," Pivirotto said. "What's the long-term solution? We have been working with (Tucson Medical Center) and (Carondelet Health Network) for several years to improve the quality of health care in Mexico.
"Just like Mexico needs better jobs, we believe firmly that you've got to improve their quality of health care," he said.
The new reimbursement program does not require providers to determine patients' citizenship status, but providers will have to answer other questions about patients' eligibility. Patients' personal information will not have to be relayed to federal immigration authori-ties.
Jim Dickson, CEO of Copper Queen Community Hospital in Bisbee, has been an outspoken advocate for the kind of reimbursement the Kyl amendment will now provide. But Dickson said he is skeptical.
"We were supposed to start getting paid April 1, with reimbursement for charges from the first quarter, Oct. 1 to Dec. 31" of last year, he said. "I'm glad they're doing this. But I think if we get any money by September or October, we'll be lucky."
Dickson said his hospital lost $180,000 on the care it provided to illegal border crossers in the last fiscal year, but those losses appear to be going down.
"We only had to write off $6,000," he said. "If we can get this border thing in line, we can start looking at improving care and not just at cutting back."
Two-thirds of the money will be distributed to health-care providers based on a state's percentage of illegal immigrants. The remaining third will go to providers in the six states with the largest number of arrests of illegal immigrants.
Arizona has the largest number of apprehensions, Dickson said, which helped it qualify for $45 million a year instead of the $40 million announced when the Medicare bill was passed in 2003.
The other three states qualifying for the highest reimbursements this fiscal year are California, $70.8 million; Texas, $46 million; and New York, $12.25 million. Payments to providers will be made quarterly and will be adjusted proportionally if the bills exceed the state's allocation.
In a statement issued Monday, Kyl said: "Many Northern states don't feel that illegal immigration is a major problem because it's not perceived as their problem. But the reality is that illegal immigration is a genuinely national issue, and resolving it requires a national commitment not just on health care but also border control, law enforcement and other resources."
When does that "throw of the shackles of our own government" kick in?
And this is our job of course.
WhoTF do they think they are?
we sure don't want to see them in 2006
It's only yours and my tax money.
Easy come. Easy go.
Would you let a crook hold your wallet?
Well, that is what is happening. Crooked Congress is holding our wallets.
OMG. I can see that the real cost just doubled.
We would be lucky if it only doubles. Would you like to try for a much larger number? (Gads I'm angry.)
Freepers complain because the feds wouldn't re-imburse the states.
Freepers complain because the feds do re-imburse the states.
The insanity continues at Free Republic.
Freepers complain cuz the Feds don't do their JOB and secure the border.
Nice try at obfuscation though... one of those free traitors, are ya?
The answer is not to accept your incompetance, but to take corrective measure at the heart of the problem.
GWB and the rest of the losers in government are selling us down the river to cheap labor, illegal lobbying groups, and all of the other something for nothing groups.
Wouldn't it be cheaper to just round 'em up and drop 'em back in Fox's hands?
They should be taking the ONE BILLION DOLLARS and building a wall and/or investing in more Border Patrol agents!
Enough of this insanity!
Lets stay on topic. Should or should not the feds re-imburse the states for these costs?
Namecalling on such an important issue is counter-productive. Let's hear it for both sides of all issues being presented...and responded to...intelligently and politely.
I just perused Ben FLickin's post history - he seems to be exactly what I said.
I don't know the answer to the important question you asked. Normally I wouldn't think the feds should use our tax money this way. But the feds decreed this group of people will receive medical treatment, so it makes sense the feds should provide the funds to pay for the law which they enacted.
What bothers me more is that hospitals don't have to report these people who have broken our immigration laws. It doesn't make sense when you consider hospitals are required to report all sorts of people to the proper authorities. Why not illegal immigrants?
Freepers complain cuz the Feds don't do their JOB and secure the border.
Well said. Thank you.
A more prudent way to spend the money is to build a very long, tall wall and lock them out. Or, expect them to pay for their own medical care or turn them away.
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