U.S. Taxpayer to Pay $71 Million for California Illegals
The U.S. taxpayer will start footing a small part of the bill that states spend providing health care to people who are in the country illegally.
Beginning today, California hospitals and health care providers can charge the federal government for emergency care they provide to illegal immigrants. The Bush administration announced final rules Monday for seeking reimbursements funded by a 2003 Medicare law that set aside $1 billion over four years.
California providers are to get $71 million of the $250 million that will be disbursed by Sept. 30 — more than providers in any other state. That’s only a fraction of the estimated $500 million California hospitals spend each year caring for illegal immigrants. But it is a noteworthy contribution, said Jan Emerson, spokeswoman for the California Healthcare Association, which represents hospitals. “It is hugely symbolic, because it is the first time the federal government has acknowledged that it has a role,” she said.
Hospitals participating in Medicare must provide emergency care to patients regardless of their ability to pay or their immigration status. Those in border states have complained that providing that care without reimbursement is financially untenable. In response, lawmakers earmarked the $1 billion.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who pushed for the funding, said Monday that the money will “help to keep the doors of California’s safety net hospitals open.” “This funding comes at a crucial time, when nine California hospitals have closed in the past year, due in part to a spike in costs associated with care for undocumented aliens,” said Feinstein, who is also seeking federal reimbursement to states for the costs they incur in incarcerating illegal immigrants.
Last May, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach (Orange County), proposed amending the 2003 law to require hospitals to report illegal immigrants to the federal government instead of caring for them. Lawmakers overwhelmingly rejected that bill, fearing it could dissuade undocumented immigrants from seeking life-saving care or treatment for communicable diseases.
It’s an amazing situation to be sure. Obviously, we can’t turn away people with emergency needs, let alone those with communicable diseases. And taxpayers spend much more than this providing health care to prisoners who have been convicted of more deadly crimes than this. But it is galling to create a legal obligation to take care of people who are by definition illegal.