Emergency Health Costs for Undocumented Immigrants Warrant Federal Response
The "burden" of providing uncompensated emergency medical care to undocumented immigrants in the 24 counties adjacent to the Mexican border is a "federal problem, and it requires a federal solution," according to an Arizona Daily Star editorial (Arizona Daily Star, 9/30). According to a study released last week by the U.S./Mexico Border Counties Coalition, undocumented immigrants cost hospitals in the four U.S. states on the Mexican border more than $200 million in uncompensated emergency care in 2000 (California Healthline, 9/27). While hospitals across the country contend with providing uncompensated care, the editorial notes that most facilities "do not have to provide care to citizens from other countries" simply because of the "happenstance of their location." As a result of these costs, which the study terms "an immigrant health care crisis," Tucson, Ariz., may lose one of its two trauma centers, the editorial says. The editorial also notes that the "true magnitude of the problem still remains unknown" because the study did not take into account such costs as non-emergency care, follow-up treatment, transportation and the cost of paying emergency room physicians. While Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) have sponsored legislation to "relieve" the border states of their "financial burden," the editorial says congressional action is unlikely this year. However, Kyl contends that partial funding, which would be a "huge improvement," according to the editorial, is possible in the next few months. "This is an issue that Congress should make a priority. This is a medical emergency that can be treated only with fair, intelligent political action," the editorial concludes (Arizona Daily Star, 9/30).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.