Sacramento County, Calif., Passes Measure To Require Proof of Citizenship To Receive Medical Care From Clinics
The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday approved a measure that will prohibit undocumented immigrants from receiving medical care from local clinics and other significant health care cuts designed to address the county's $55 million general fund shortfall, the Sacramento Bee reports. Officials say the measure will save the county $2.4 million annually (Ferriss, Sacramento Bee, 2/13). The savings estimate is based on the assumption that 8% of the county's medically indigent are undocumented immigrants, but officials did not specify how the figure was calculated, according to the Bee (Lewis, Sacramento Bee, 2/12).
Under the new rules, clinic health care providers must request proof of citizenship from patients such as a birth certificate or passport before providing care. Those seeking care for communicable diseases are exempt. Previously, patients only had to prove that their income was low and that they were a resident of the county, either by providing a household bill or driver's license (Sacramento Bee, 2/13). Bruce Wagstaff, head of the Department of Human Assistance, said it would cost the county an additional $500,000 annually to verify the legal status of patients (Sacramento Bee, 2/12).
According to the Bee, "Sacramento could be the first or among the first counties in the state to adopt such a blanket policy against illegal immigrants using clinics" (Sacramento Bee, 2/13). According to the Bee, supervisors disagreed on whether to include the undocumented immigrant care provision, and two supervisors attempted to remove the provision from the broader cuts (Sacramento Bee, 2/12).
Supervisor Roberta MacGlashan said she expects that every patient will be asked for proof of citizenship, regardless of ethnicity, similar to the requirements before receiving welfare assistance. She acknowledged that it is possible that ED costs will rise as a result of the new rule. "But I can only control the county budget," she said, adding, "I can't solve the health insurance problem of California."
County physicians and other health care providers have raised concern about the measure, saying it will put public health at risk, increase administration costs and divert patients to more costly emergency department care. Glennah Trochet, Sacramento County public health officer, said the measure did not distinguish between communicable disease and primary care treatment. "This is a real concern for me," she said.
Richard Pan, a pediatrician and former president of the Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society, said, "We're going to have increasing pools of people not being treated. We're going to have citizens denied care. And we're going to shift costs." He added, "My guess is we are not going to come out much ahead" (Sacramento Bee, 2/13).