Illegal Immigrants Leave Hospitals With Billions in Unpaid Bills

U.S. Hospitals Struggle with Surge of Uninsured Illegal Immigrants

As the number of illegal immigrants crossing the U.S. border continues to rise, hospitals across the country are grappling with billions of dollars in uncompensated care costs. The House Committee on Homeland Security recently released a report revealing that a significant portion of the estimated $451 billion in annual costs stemming from the border crisis is attributed to healthcare for illegal immigrants.

With the majority of illegal immigrants lacking medical insurance, hospitals and government welfare programs like Medicaid are bearing the weight of these unanticipated expenses. In Denver, Colorado, the city’s health system reported $140 million in uncompensated care costs last year, with more than $10 million attributed to care for new immigrants.

Dr. Robert Trenschel, CEO of the Yuma Regional Medical Center in Arizona, testified before Congress that illegal immigrants cost up to three times more in human resources to resolve their cases and provide safe discharge. Many arrive with significant diseases, requiring intensive care and extended hospital stays.

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act of 1986 mandates that public hospitals participating in Medicare must provide emergency care to all persons, regardless of their ability to pay or immigration status. This has led to a steady stream of illegal immigrants seeking medical treatment, overwhelming healthcare systems and contributing to longer wait times for American patients.

In New York City, where illegal immigration has become a notable issue, officials have long accommodated illegal immigrants’ healthcare costs. The city’s Task Force on Immigrant Health Care Access, established in 2014, aims to expand avenues for illegal immigrants to receive free healthcare.

Medicaid, a government healthcare resource, is also heavily utilized by illegal immigrants. While most don’t qualify for regular Medicaid, they are eligible for Emergency Medicaid, which helps pay for uncompensated care bills at qualifying hospitals. However, loopholes allow some illegal immigrants to access regular Medicaid benefits, particularly in sanctuary states with policies shielding them from federal immigration authorities.

In response to the growing crisis, some state legislators and members of Congress are taking action. Florida recently passed a law requiring hospitals that accept Medicaid to collect and submit patients’ immigration status to the state. Representatives Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) and Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) introduced the Protect Medicaid Act, which aims to prevent federal taxpayer dollars from being used to provide Medicaid benefits to illegal immigrants.

As the debate over illegal immigration and its impact on the U.S. healthcare system continues, hospitals and taxpayers are left to grapple with the mounting costs of uncompensated care.

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