Rep. Dana Rohrabacher Introduces Bill To Require Emergency Room Physicians To Report Undocumented Immigrants
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) on Wednesday introduced a bill that would require emergency room physicians nationwide to report and in some cases fingerprint undocumented immigrants that they treat, the Long Beach Press-Telegram reports. Under the legislation, 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 name of employer of patients who are not U.S. citizens. In addition, hospitals would have to take a fingerprint or a different "biometric indicator to be decided" by the department. In the case of illegal 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 ER care. "America has become the HMO to the whole world. We are taking care of any illegal immigrant who can get to our country and get to that emergency room," Rohrabacher said, adding, "The American taxpayer cannot be the world's HMO. It is going to break us." The legislation is part of a "handshake deal" that Rohrabacher reached last year with House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), the Press-Telegram reports. Rohrabacher opposed the new Medicare law (HR 1) because of a $1 billion provision to reimburse hospitals for the cost of care for undocumented immigrants but agreed to vote in favor of the legislation in exchange for a vote on his bill early in 2004. John Feehery, a spokesperson for Hastert, on Wednesday confirmed the agreement but said that he "did not know when the bill would be placed on the calendar for a vote," the Press-Telegram reports.
Advocates for undocumented immigrants and hospital groups "immediately denounced the plan as medically cruel to patients and logistically burdensome to hospitals," the Press-Telegram reports. Jan Emerson, a spokesperson for the California Healthcare Association, said, "It's impractical, it won't work and it's philosophically wrong." She added, "Our job is to provide health care, and we do it every day to whoever walks in our doors. Our job is not to be INS agents." Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) called the bill "a terrible idea," adding, "We know that our hospitals are already underfunded and understaffed. To add on the burden of forcing hospital staffs to become untrained immigration officers is obviously a bad idea and a logistical nightmare" (Friedman, Long Beach Press-Telegram, 1/21).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.