Texas Hospitals on U.S.-Mexico Border ‘Strained’ By Providing Uncompensated Care to Mexican Residents
Texas hospitals near the U.S.-Mexico border say that providing uncompensated emergency care to people living in northern Mexico is placing a heavy financial burden on resources that are already "strained," the Associated Press reports. The North American Free Trade Agreement has transformed the region into a "blossoming economic zone," but many cities in northern Mexico lack advanced medical technology. The closest facilities equipped to treat medical emergencies in many cases are located in Texas or other border states, so Mexican patients are often transported via ambulance across the border to receive care at U.S. hospitals. "Obliged by humanity and legality," hospitals provide the necessary care, but the practice is raising questions among providers. Brownsville Medical Center administrator Dominic Dominguez said, "Part of my signing to serve in this community is, I'll cover this emergency room. But I didn't sign on to cover Mexico."
Hospital officials and lawmakers say that the cost of providing uncompensated care to people from Mexico is placing additional stress on facilities that already face "overwhelmed hospital staffs" and a growing patient population. A report released in September by the Mexico Border Health Coalition found that U.S. border hospitals provided a total of $200 million in uncompensated emergency health care in 2000; Texas hospitals shouldered $74 million of this amount. Border hospitals pass on the cost of uncompensated care to insurers and Medicaid, but officials from the facilities say that the problem must be addressed. Security questions have also arisen; Dallas INS official Carl Rusnok said, "It is a security threat if they are going across the border unchallenged, but at the same time, we don't want to interfere with an emergency procedure" (Brezosky, Associated Press, 11/16).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.