KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Jury Rules For Florida Hospital That Deported Brain-Damaged Immigrant Patient

"In a benchmark case dealing with the obligations of hospitals toward uninsured illegal immigrants, a jury in Stuart, Fla., decided Monday that Martin Memorial Medical Center did not act unreasonably when it chartered a plane and repatriated a severely brain-injured Guatemalan patient against the will of his guardian," The New York Times reports.

The hospital "spent $1.5 million to care for Mr. Jiménez. The costs especially mounted because of a conundrum faced by the hospital. As a condition of receiving Medicaid and Medicare money, the hospital was required to care for Mr. Jiménez until it could properly discharge him under federal law. That meant discharging Mr. Jiménez into a skilled nursing home, but the hospital could not find one willing to accept an uninsured illegal immigrant. So it kept Mr. Jiménez as a boarder until, in 2003, a state judge gave the hospital permission to send him back to Guatemala. As his cousin's lawyer sought to delay the move, the hospital leased a plane for $30,000 and early one morning flew Mr. Jiménez to an orthopedic hospital in Guatemala City"  (Sontag, 7/27).

The Associated Press: "Martin Memorial Medical Center's CEO and president Mark E. Robitaille said ... 'What is most disappointing is that the issue of providing health care to undocumented immigrants remains unresolved on a state and national level. This is not simply an issue facing Martin Memorial. It is a critical dilemma facing health care providers across Florida and across the United States.' ... He said he hoped the case would push leaders at the state and federal levels to find a solution rather than relying on individual health care providers to find one on a case-by-case basis. Robitaille said none of the health care reform proposals under consideration in Congress address the issue."

The AP adds: "Like millions of others, Jimenez came the U.S to work as a day laborer, sending money home to his family. In 2000, a drunk driver crashed into a van he was riding in, leaving him a paraplegic with the cognitive ability of a fourth grader" (Wides-Munoz, 7/27).

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