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.

U.S. to help cover health costs of illegals / Providers in state to divvy up $71 million for emergency care (SF Chronicle)

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.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. GSR says:

    It’s one more step in the legitimization of illegal immigration, which is, indeed, galling. Until we decide to control our borders, that $1 billion will become $10 billion and then $100 billion.

  2. LJD says:

    Illegals come to the U.S. for work, and to make a better life for their families…. sounds O.K.

    Illegals receive health care when they need it… sounds O.K.

    Illegals do not carry health insurance and likely do not have the money to pay their medical bills… NOT O.K.

    Illegals work for pay under-the-table, contributing nothing to the benefits they receive… NOT O.K.

    Sounds like a free ride to me. No wonder they’re coming in droves.

  3. DC Loser says:

    We can solve all this illegal immigration problem overnight if we just paid the lettuce pickers, landscapers, etc. a decent wage so the bosses won’t have to get illegals to work. But we like our cheap produce and nice landscaping too much to do anything about it.

  4. ken says:

    James, what the hell do you mean by saying that some people are ‘by definition illegal”.

    You fascist pig. People are never illegal.

  5. Scott Dillard says:

    On the contrary, Ken, of course people can be illegal. Being in my country without my country’s permission means you are here illegally. And please, the Leftoid point about “no one is illegal” is tired. Please stop. And by the way, thanks from CA for the money from the feds. Perhaps now they can look into reimbursing us for the ONE BILLION dollars a year we spend to incarcerate illegal aliens (yes, Ken…illegal).

  6. Red says:


    Try being in any other country illegaly and see what happens to you. I guess we have other laws in this country for no reason?

  7. Ken says:

    Scott and Red, technically I guess you are right. People can be illegal. After all, there was a time when Jews in Germany were illegal.

    I don’t think that there is anywhere on earth where people themselves are, as James says, ‘by definition illegal’. It takes a fascist attitude to think otherwise.

  8. Scott Dillard says:

    Ken, get a grip. Jews were “illegal” in Germany under the Nazis because they had been stripped of their citizenship and became stateless persons, therby unable to own property…i.e. they had not rights according to the state. We are discussing people who are citizens of a foreign nation who have decided to ignore our borders, our laws, etc because THEY WANT TO. They themselves are not “illegal persons”, but their presence in this country is illegal. I don’t wish any of them ill will, I just want them to go home. If they want to come here, then go to the nearest US consulate and take a fucking number and wait until it’s called. Immigration is good for our country, but on OUR terms. And when people come here as immigrants, it is up to them to learn our language and live according to our customs and laws. I actually think you understand all this, but are simply being argumentative.

  9. spaceman says:

    Hey, they aren’t illegal, they are “undocumented”. I learned that by listening to NPR.

  10. McGehee says:

    There is no parody like self-parody, but Ken actually seems to strive for it.