California Hospitals Concerned About Bill Requiring Reporting of Undocumented Immigrants
Hospitals in the Central Valley are "wary" of a bill (HR 3722) that would require emergency department physicians nationwide to report undocumented immigrants that they treat, and the California Healthcare Association is among groups that are "stepping up their lobbying" efforts against the legislation, the Modesto Bee reports (Doyle, Modesto Bee, 5/12). Under the bill, hospitals that accept federal funds to treat undocumented immigrants would have to ask patients whether they are U.S. citizens. Hospitals would have to report to the Department of Homeland Security the immigration status, address and employer of patients who are not U.S. citizens. In addition, hospitals would have to collect patients' fingerprints or a different "biometric indicator to be decided" by the department. In the case of undocumented immigrant status, the department would have to initiate deportation proceedings against the patient. In addition, the bill would require employers who hire undocumented immigrants to cover the cost of their unreimbursed ED care. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) drafted the bill in response to a provision in the new Medicare law that provided $1 billion over four years to reimburse hospitals for treating undocumented immigrants (California Healthline, 5/11). CHA spokesperson Jan Emerson said, "Our job is to provide health care. It is not to become Border Patrol agents." Wendy Pinto, a spokesperson for Modesto-based Memorial Medical Center, said that the legislation "could force people not to seek care for fear of punishment or being deported." John Zelezny, senior vice president for Fresno-based Community Medical Centers, said that the bill would add "an additional burden to health care providers" and could "put hospitals in a position of policing, which concerns us." Although the legislation "appears to have little chance of becoming law," it has "secure[d] a public stage for reasons beyond [its] legislative prospects," the Bee reports (Modesto Bee, 5/12).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.