Los Angeles Times Profiles Transfer of Undocumented, Uninsured Immigrants to Mexican Hospitals
The Los Angeles Times on Wednesday profiled Nextcare, a two-year-old business that has contracted with five U.S. hospitals to transport uninsured, undocumented Mexican immigrants to Mexico. The U.S. hospitals pay the company to arrange transportation and treatment for Mexican immigrants who voluntarily agree to be transferred to a Mexican hospital; many of the patients are transferred to Nextcare's Tijuana facility, Hospital Ingles. Although U.S. hospitals cannot legally ask about patients' residency status, it may become apparent through insurance inquiries, according to the Times. The Times reports that hospital industry officials expect the business to "flourish as health costs rise." According to a study of health care facilities in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, hospitals near the U.S.-Mexico border in 2002 spent about $200 million on care for undocumented, uninsured immigrants. The average daily cost for a bed in a California hospital is $1,737, compared with a daily cost of as low as $450 through Nextcare, according to company officials.
Nextcare's business is "raising concern" among some doctors and immigrant advocates about the quality of care in Mexican facilities, the Times reports. Dr. Rosemarie Johnson, a member of the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission, said Tijuana hospitals "range from a cottage ... [with] a couple beds, to state-of-the-art," adding that many have outdated medical equipment. However, Jim Lott, executive vice president of the Hospital Association of Southern California, said the service "is a responsible and innovative way of dealing with a shortage of beds for indigent patients." George Ochoa, co-founder of Nextcare, said that patients often opt to transfer because they can more easily contact family members, are familiar with the Mexican health system and do not require translators. He said he would like to expand the business to all states along the U.S-Mexico border (Richardson, Los Angeles Times, 11/5).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.