Musings of a Real Texas Cowgirl

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Friday, March 03, 2006

Our Tax Dollars at Work: Paying for Health Care for Illegal Aliens

Guess who gets the privilege of paying for the health care of illegal aliens? That's right, it's us. Our tax dollars at work. Read more...

The Monitor

U.S. to help pay for care to undocumented immigrants

March 02, 2006
Jennifer C. Smith
The Monitor

Hospital officials pleased but wary about multimillion-dollar reimbursement for ER costs

MISSION — Local hospital officials expressed wary optimism Wednesday at news that Texas would receive up to $23 million from the federal government to offset costs of providing emergency care for undocumented immigrants.

"I’ll take whatever they can give," said Mission Regional Medical Center Chief Financial Officer Randy Slack. The hospital received a $100,000 payment this week to offset the costs of ER care between May and July 2005.The payment is only one-quarter of the amount requested, Slack said.

"It’s a Band-Aid on a big wound."

The payments are part of the 2003 Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act President Bush passed. The bill appropriates $250 million to hospitals, physicians and ambulance companies for emergency care from 2005 through 2008. Patients who are illegal often cannot or do not pay for their care. The multimillion-dollar costs are even worse along the Texas-Mexico border, hospital administration officials said. Texas is one of six states receiving additional funding for the costs of emergency care for undocumented immigrants.

"I’m happy they at least acknowledge the problem exists," said Dan McLean, CEO of South Texas Health Systems, which is comprised of seven medical facilities in the Rio Grande Valley.

Two of the system’s largest facilities, McAllen Medical Center and Edinburg Regional Medical Center, will receive slightly more than $3 million in quarterly payments by the end of 2006.

But the hospital network runs $140 million annually in uncompensated care and 60 to 70 percent of those costs are in the ER, McLean said.

About 1,500 hospitals nationwide applied for reimbursement, said Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services spokesman Peter Ashkenaz.

He could not say how many dollars the Rio Grande Valley would receive.

MedCare ambulance service president Candelario Ontiveros said he is still waiting for reimbursements.

"We transport on an ER basis a considerable amount of people who are undocumented," he said, estimating the amount to be 15 to 18 percent of the 45,000 people they serve each year areundocumented.

Each ambulance ride usually costs between $250 to $375, he added.



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