Federal Money for Health Care Providers Unused
A federal program intended to provide $1 billion in funding for health care facilities that provide emergency care to undocumented immigrants has "largely gone unused," the Chicago Tribune reports. Nine months into the first year of the program, which runs through 2008, only about 15% of the money has been claimed by health care providers, and federal officials "can't explain why overburdened communities have not grabbed the cash," according to the Tribune.
Herb Kuhn, director of CMS' Center for Medicare Management, said, "We are really not certain why providers are not claiming the money." The Tribune reports that the "biggest deterrent" for most providers is completing the required paperwork for the program, which they say is too time consuming and "can offset any money gained."
Some providers are concerned that questioning patients about their immigration status, as required by the program, will cause them to forego health care. For example, New York City's health network in November 2005 announced that it would not claim any of the program's funding in order to protect patients' confidentiality about their immigrant status.
In addition, providers expressed dissatisfaction with how the government "often dramatically trims hospital bills," the Tribune reports (Franklin/Japsen, Chicago Tribune, 9/17).