University of Texas Medical Branch Might Require Proof of Residency Before Providing Care to Indigent Patients With Cancer
The Galveston, Texas-based University of Texas Medical Branch is considering requiring patients who need cancer treatment to prove that they are legal residents before it provides care to those who are indigent, the Houston Chronicle reports. The branch's Cancer Patients Acceptance Committee has been considering the policy for months and is expected to make a decision by January 2008. Any changes would take effect immediately.
According to Karen Sexton, vice president and CEO of hospitals and clinics at the branch, the branch's $1.4 billion annual budget included $12 million this year to care for indigent patients with cancer, but the amount fell short. She said, "Everyday, very difficult decisions have to be made because there are too few resources for the demand."
According to the Chronicle, cancer patients turned away at the medical branch likely will see care in Houston or other places. Ronald Walters, associate vice president for medical operations at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, said, "The Harris County Hospital District, and probably to some degree M.D. Anderson, can't help but be affected by this. It should worry the taxpayers of at least Harris County."
According to the Chronicle, the issue is also "part of a larger debate over immigration, particularly whether illegal immigrants should have access to taxpayer-funded services, including education." Lovell Jones, co-founder of the Intercultural Cancer Center, said, "When you stop providing care for one service, it becomes a slippery slope," adding that Hispanics likely will be affected the most by the policy.
Steven Camarota, director of the Center for Immigration Studies, said, "Every dollar the state of Texas or Harris County and the city of Houston spends on health care for people who aren't supposed to be in the country is a dollar they can't spend on citizens and legal immigrants." According to the center, which supports tighter controls on immigration, undocumented immigrants represent 21% of Texas' uninsured population (Grant, Houston Chronicle, 12/3).