Sunday, August 3, 2008

Hospitals Deporting Immigrant Patients?

Yesterday, we blogged abut "criminal aliens," one of the most unpopular immigrant groups in the United States.  Another unpopular groups of immigrants are immigrant public benefit recipients.  California's Proposition 187, an invalidated measure that would have barred undocumented immigrants from attending public elementary and secondarty schools (contrary to Supreme Court precedent), and 1996 welfare reform, which eliminated legal immigrants from eligibility from major federal benefit programs, are two prominent recent examples of the unpopularity of immigrant benefit recipients.

The N.Y. Times has a story today about a poor and injured Guatemalan man who a U.S.  HOSPITAL deported to avoid paying for his care.  I am surprised by little when it comes to immigration law and policy in the United States but this surprised me: It appears that many hospitals are repatriating seriously injured or ill immigrants because nursing homes won’t accept them without insurance.

Martin Memorial in Florida, for example, leased an air ambulance for $30,000 and “forcibly returned [a Guatamalan man who had been seriously injured in an automobile accident with a drunken driver] to his home country.”  This poor man reportedly is getting no medical care in Guatalama and is withering away. And the Times reports that this is apparently a "widespread practice":

"Many American hospitals are taking it upon themselves to repatriate seriously injured or ill immigrants because they cannot find nursing homes willing to accept them without insurance. Medicaid does not cover long-term care for illegal immigrants, or for newly arrived legal immigrants, creating a quandary for hospitals, which are obligated by federal regulation to arrange post-hospital care for patients who need it. . . . Most hospitals say that they do not conduct cross-border transfers until patients are medically stable and that they arrange to deliver them into a physician’s care in their homeland. But the hospitals are operating in a void, without governmental assistance or oversight, leaving ample room for legal and ethical transgressions on both sides of the border."

What ever happened to the Hippocratic Oath?


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