Caring for Undocumented Immigrants Costing Florida Hospitals Millions, According to Report
Treating undocumented immigrants is costing Florida hospitals millions in unpaid medical bills, according to a report issued Jan. 7 by the Florida Hospital Association, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reports. The report examines 705 cases from 57 hospitals, finding that hospitals had more than $40 million in unpaid bills in one year from treating undocumented immigrants. According to the report, those cases represent "only a fraction" of the amount undocumented immigrant care costs Florida hospitals annually. Federal law requires hospitals to treat any patient seeking emergency care, regardless of citizenship status or ability to pay. Florida receives less than $2 million a year in federal funds to pay for undocumented immigrant care, the Sun-Sentinel reports. Kim Streit, FHA vice president for health care research and information, said that some hospitals try to work with the Immigration and Naturalization Service and immigrants' home countries to cover care costs. The report suggests that legislation be offered that would require countries to accept medical transfers of their citizens and that the state ask for more resources and cooperation from international embassies, INS, immigration lawyers and immigrants' families (McVicar, Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, 1/8).
Federal Government Should Pay, Editorial Says
The "obvious solution" to the financial "quandary" of undocumented immigrant care costs is for the federal government to give states like Florida more funds, a Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel editorial states. The funds Florida currently receives are "woefully inadequate," the editorials says. Florida's congressional representatives must "fight for more money," but the government should also "closely review the costs on a case-by-case basis and pay for those -- and only those -- that are legitimate expenses," the editorial contends. Further, INS should act "with a greater sense of urgency" on cases where foreign patients who have been treated do not return to their home countries, the editorial states. The Sun-Sentinel concludes that it is not right "for the federal government to burden the states with what ultimately is its responsibility" (Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, 1/9).