Skip to comments.Migrant care cost El Paso $30 million
Posted on 09/26/2002 8:37:37 AM PDT by FITZ
Undocumented immigrants in El Paso rang up more than $30 million in unpaid medical bills in 2000 -- the second-highest amount for a border county, after San Diego -- according to a study being released today.
The U.S.-Mexico Border Counties Coalition, a group of elected officials from 24 border counties in four states, commissioned the study to put pressure on Congress to reimburse border hospitals for providing emergency medical services to undocumented immigrants.
"We've said all along that the federal government should pay for this because it's a federal mandate for hospitals to treat everyone regardless of nationality," said Pete Duarte, Thomason Hospital's chief executive officer. "The crisis became apparent when NAFTA went into effect, and the pull of the border continues to bring more poor immigrants. I have suggested charging a 5-cent toll at the international bridges that would be earmarked for health care at the border. We have talked to everyone who will listen, but there has not been the ethical or moral will to solve this problem."
Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., who obtained federal money to pay for the study, is scheduled to join coalition members today in Washington to propose legislation to alleviate the financial burden on border hospitals.
Thomason Hospital had $32 million worth of uncompensated medical care in fiscal year 2001, which ended last Sept. 30. That was in addition to $49.7 million worth of charity care for patients the hospital knew upfront could not pay their bills, hospital officials said.
To help offset some of the costs, Thomason is seeking a 12.5 percent property tax increase for the new fiscal year that will begin next month. Property taxes now generate $35 million in revenue for the hospital.
Doña Ana County incurred about $5.5 million in unreimbursed medical care for treating undocumented immigrants in 2000, and Luna County incurred $563,000 for the same period.
Under federal law, hospital emergency centers cannot ask for a patient's immigration status, and they cannot refuse treatment to someone who might be in the country illegally.
MaryAnn Aelmans-Digman, CEO and president of Memorial Hospital in Las Cruces, said the hospital also admits any urgent or emergency patient because "we don't want them to not come and get care."
Memorial Hospital's total uncompensated medical-care bill for 2001 was $32.8 million, which included $11.4 million for charity care.
But "we couldn't tell how much of that is attributable to illegal immigrants," Aelmans-Digman said.
The study by MPT of America, a consulting firm in Florida hired by the coalition, is thought to be the first of its kind in its attempt to quantify the cost of treating undocumented immigrants at border hospitals. It was limited to emergency room services, which are the most commonly sought by undocumented immigrants.
The researchers said reliable data are impossible to obtain because a 1996 federal law prohibits hospitals from asking patients about their immigration status. That law also requires hospitals to treat such patients.
To come up with their cost estimate, researchers used a complicated statistical model, conducted interviews with hospital administrators and surveyed 77 hospitals and 82 emergency medical transportation providers in the four states along the Mexican border.
It found that the cost of treating undocumented immigrants in emergency rooms totaled about $190 million in 2000, and was especially high in El Paso, San Diego and Pima County, Ariz. The amount does not include the cost of ambulance services, emergency room physician fees or follow-up care. Including them would have pushed the cost to more than $300 million, according to the study.
U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso, said "the study backs up what my colleagues from other border districts and I have been saying for years with hard data, and will help us all as we continue to address the unique health-care problems we face along the U.S.-Mexican border at a federal level."
The study found that undocumented immigrants arrive at emergency rooms by ambulance, they walk in or they are brought by the Border Patrol, which is part of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
"Hospital officials were especially frustrated with the INS," the study said. "They told researchers that Border Patrol agents often don't take illegal immigrants into custody to avoid paying for their emergency medical care."
No one at El Paso's Border Patrol office was available for comment Wednesday, and questions were referred to officials in Washington -- who also were unavailable.
The study recommended that Congress set aside money for the INS to cover the costs of emergency medical services stemming from search-and-rescue and law-enforcement activities.
It also recommended finding a way to identify and track individuals' immigration statuses through such methods as the lack of a Social Security number. This would enable an agency such as the INS or Border Patrol to submit federal reimbursement requests.
Robin Herskowitz, who directed the study, said border hospitals, like hospitals elsewhere, are under intense financial pressure due to the growing number of uninsured patients and severe cutbacks in state Medicare and Medicaid payments to hospitals. But, she said, most hospitals don't have to cope with a high volume of undocumented immigrants.
"By sheer accident of their geography, border hospitals bear a disproportionate share of the cost of treating undocumented immigrants," Herskowitz said.
The study estimates that emergency room services provided to such immigrants represent about 23 percent of all "uncompensated care" at border hospitals. The bulk of uncollected fees come from other patients who can't or won't pay their bills.
Herskowitz said the growing pile of unpaid bills by undocumented immigrants at some hospitals has forced administrators to reduce staff, increase rates and cut back services.
"What people need to think about is that the next time you are driving through a border state and have a medical emergency, the local emergency room could be closed because the hospital cannot afford to keep it open," she said.
It's costing Americans as a whole billions and billions every year! While our so called leaders stand in stone silence, as they watch this invasion of millions......
The real answer is to eliminate the incentives for illegals to break-in to America and to secure our borders rather than shift the cost from the States to the Feds.
It's completely out of control, as our elected representitives stand treasonously silent........
That will be $0.10, please.
Every Hispanic person I ever see has a hammer or some trade tool in his hand. Or, he's out with his family shopping. Hard-working, honorable, industrious people.
I spent the last year living in uptown Charlotte and watched crews of Hispanic laborers build three or four beautiful buildings in that town. I never once saw one sleeping on the street, but I saw plenty with complexions both ligher and darker doing just that.
By Steven A. Camarota National Review September 3, 2001
Sounds like you aren't well traveled either.
Isn't this what they want? We abandon the land and they take it back.
Shut down the damn border!!!!!
"Under federal law, hospital emergency centers cannot ask for a patient's immigration status, and they cannot refuse treatment to someone who might be in the country illegally."
Amendment V, U.S. Constitution,
"...nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation."
Art I, Sec 8, Cl 17, U.S. Constitution,
Powers of Congress
"To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over...all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dock-yards, and other needful buildings"
The federal law requiring hospitals to accept non-paying immigrants is unconstitutional without a corresponding tax to fund the compensation the hospital's deserve for using their public property for public use and without the federales securing proper jurisdiction.
But what is really baffling is why the hospital's do not fight this federal law in court as unconstitutional.
The price of that litigation would be a heck of a lot less than the $30 million in uncompensated services that the hospital's have incurred?
So what is really going on?
Again that is just a handful. How do you propose the citizens of El Paso pay for this? ---there's only about 600,000 ---one third already live on some kind of welfare program so you can consider about 400,000 mostly low-paid people have to pay for a county hospital that just lost over $30,000,000. In San Diego the county hospital loses $80,000,000. How can the citizens of that county pay the complete costs?
Moron! It's ain't about you and "what you saw". What you see is not what goes on at the border. And what you see is just the surface. There is plenty of welfare and scamming going on you don't see. And what do you propose for these illegal aliens once this housing bubble gets pricked? Send 'em back to Mexico?
You have no answer.
You nailed it. Even if they do pay taxes they get most or all of their money back through EITC.
It's a lose, lose situation.
Oh, I dont know, but I bet it has something to do with the fact Blue Cross/Blue Shield will not be accepted at many of my local hospitals because they have had it with annual 15% increases from Hospitals to help subsidise this fine little mess.
Someone always pays.Normally the scmucks are people just like me,The vast silent majority of whats left of the middle class in the USA.
I am finding my voice and I refuse to let ignorant worshippers of PC BS shut me up!
I have to show ID to get treated, along with my insurance card, if I arrive conscious.I guess if I pretended I could not speak English, I would not have to worry about co-pays and deductables, etc.But on the other hand, they would probably find a way to prove I was a citizen and force me to pay anyway.
While his wife and children were picking up benefits paid for by taxpayers. Those same taxpayers that were put out of a job by these folks.
My auto insurance has doubled, my property taxes have doubled and they haven't even added a storage building. We are having only a 5% increase in taxation rates this year, but they are raising the value of all property 30%. This in a small town that is probably 50% or more senior citizens and no jobs. We don't even have many illegals here - but we are paying for them.
Of course, now you know all those people with the hammers and tools, building those beautiful buildings are paying their fair share of taxes. They all carry auto insurance. They all pay for their children's lunches, medical care, etc. They are paying property taxes and obeying all the laws. Sure they are.
You know the people on the street may be an eyesore. They may be costing the taxpayers something. But they are costing no where near what these other people are. Maybe, just maybe, theya re not producing a child a year for you to care for.
You bet, these people are working, they are making money. They are not stupid people. They know how to use the American system and with the aid of greedy policiticians, corporation and just people who have not yet felt the impact, are making out just fine. Honorable - I don't think so.
The state of Texas is having a 'budget shortfall', that means broke in plain language. I can see a state income tax on the horizon. The city of Dallas is broke. When they talk of the cost to hospitals, that is just a drop in the bucket.
I will admit this is a cut and dried issue with me. There are no grey areas. If these people need help, let send them home, and help in their own country. We could afford to give them plenty of care in their own at a much better price. We should not destroy this nation to do it. Who will care for them then - or us?
If you are employing them, or in politics or in some other way benefiting monetarily from this, I understand you - I am very sad about it, but I understand. If, however, you just want to disagree with people who are speaking some very harsh truths, or are really just soft-hearted and believe they are just hard working people that are adding more than they take - the facts and figures do not support you. Either way, it is dangerous to this country.
First off, the operative word is 'Mexican Nationals'. That means they broke the law to get here. But laws of this nation are important. If we allow any law to so blatantly be broken just because some poor person benefits from it or some politicians or greedy corporation makes money - then we are in trouble. Just wait until people realize if enough poor people, or others in the name of poor people begin to rob banks, and rob enough of them, there would not be a lot that could be done. Laws are only good, if people want to obey them or think they have to. If one goes by the wayside, they all become a little less absolute.
Now I do agree somewhat with your statement that all of them are not as bad as the LaRaza and LULAC crowd, or the just plain criminals that have been 'encouraged' by their own government to settle here.
If you come here and are taking jobs from other Americans, which is happening. They are only more appealing to employers because they don't have to carry workman's comp, match taxes or even do bookeeping for them. If you are not paying your fair share, as in not paying taxes, feeding your children, carrying insurance to protect others, even if you are a wonderful, kind-hearted, hardworking, person, you are still a threat to this country. We do not need any more people that need to be supported. We need more people to support themselves and to support the ideals of this nation.
You certainly have!! And you are using it admirably. Just keep it up.
Now don't get discouraged when they call you a racist or a bigot. When they do you realize they, finally, have realized they have no facts - just attempted intimidation. It might have worked for some int he past, but no more. Now it is just like crying 'calfrope'!!
I imagine that the response from their lack of wanting to uphold the law is to subsidize the hospitals, at US taxpayer expense (of course, I'm sure that's good for border county residents, as it may mean lower taxes for them).
Uh, isn't this article about illegal aliens? Or as the neocons say, undocumented? Or is this talk about Mexican American's just more distraction and diversion from the actual article? Or are you actually referring to the illegal aliens that vote and have subverted our elections?
They don't all vote democrat but the Hispanic Americans who are from families who came in the early 1900's or those descended from the Spaniards who came to what is now the SW USA are the more conservative types, the ones coming from Mexico in the past few years tend not to have those same conservative values. Some of the professionals who are coming are conservative but the majority coming for the free stuff aren't at all conservative.
We should wipe out welfare but that's getting more and more difficult when the types of people in Mexico who think welfare sounds like a good idea and know they can get it here but not there decide to move on over ---and vote.
One reason San Diego and El Paso and other border cities are in an extreme crisis situation with health care ---is that this isn't even just the typical illegal immigrants. Many of the ones coming over never worked a day in their life here, they can't be said to have benefitted our economy in any way at all --not even with their cheap labor. They come up from all areas of Mexico for the sole purpose of getting to a US border hospital for all kinds of health care they will never be expected to pay for. It's a problem that's growing worse extremely fast because they've all caught on how easy it is to do and also most good physicians have left Mexico. If I lived over there I wouldn't like to go to most doctors there either.
Same thing with the schools along the border. They're all in need of federal money bailouts.
Before you get real agitated about "racism" and whatever ---go back and check out the names of the authors of this article. It has nothing to do with ethnicity or race, it's a financial crisis that is destroying the border region.