IMMIGRANT HEALTH: Wilson Calls For More Federal Funding
Gov. Pete Wilson joined other governors from across the nation yesterday in saying that "the federal government should provide California and other states more money to pay the costs of providing emergency medical care to illegal immigrants." The Copley News Service/San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the executive board of the National Governors Association approved a resolution "urging Congress to appropriate enough money for full reimbursement of the states." The requested funding is allotted to California and "11 other states with the largest illegal immigrant populations," although "the sum falls far short of what the states now pay for such health care." The governors' resolution, recognizing that the Constitution hands immigration policy over to the "exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government," states: "Under no circumstances, should state ... governments be required to share in the costs from federal policy decisions that would provide health care and other federal entitlement to undocumented individuals." Wilson noted that he will lobby Congress to pass the resolution, yet expressed caution about the success of the measure (Green, 2/23).
Looking Beyond Legislation
The Orange County Register reports that with the state planning to stop providing prenatal care for illegal immigrants by April, "officials at Orange County hospitals and clinics have been meeting for months to find ways to continue to provide care without state support." In one "solution," Tenet Healthcare Corp. has teamed up with Hoag Hospital and St. Joseph Hospital to launch "an experimental $125,000 fund that will provide no-interest loans to expectant moms to pay for their care." The program is expected to assist 100 to 150 women. Hoag has already given Laguna Beach Community Clinic "a $40,000 grant that will support free prenatal care for six months to a year after the state funding ends." Laguna's Dr. Thomas O'Sullivan said, "The politicians know it's bad economics to cut off care for these people. Once the public realizes, if you do this it's going to come out of your pocket, the proposal will lose popular support" (Nicolosi/Kowalczyk, 2/22). The Sacramento Bee reports that "[o]n Thursday, a March 1 deadline" for cutting off prenatal care "was canceled -- at least for several says -- when a temporary restraining order was granted in Los Angeles Superior Court." A hearing is now scheduled for March 3. If the deadline does go forward, "Sacramento County supervisors will be asked to search for ways to restore benefits for undocumented immigrants," the Bee reports. While the county's Department of Human Assistance "estimates 670 undocumented immigrants a month get prenatal care benefits in the county, ... [t]he cost to restore benefits for undocumented immigrants should run about $500,000 annually," according to an official at the County Department of Medical Systems (Enkoji, 2/23).