Illegal Aliens: The Health Cost Dimension
Saul Diaz was a penniless, unemployed,
uninsured illegal alien living in Georgia when
he was severely injured in a car accident.
During his yearlong hospitalization, Diaz racked
up $1 million in medical expenses.
Officials tried to return Diaz to Mexico after he was
stabilized. But Diaz died before he could be removed.
The Gwinnett (GA.) Hospital System expects more
illegal immigrants will present themselves for urgent
care this year and has established a $34 million reserve
to cover its outlay.
Said Paula Martin, a hospital representative:
“When patients come in
emergency department, we do not know or ask if they
are documented, we are obligated to deliver care
regardless of their status. And as you know, some people
do not admit to being illegally in the U.S.”
Indigent care costs escalating; “Hospitals don`t
track illegal immigrant factor,” by Rick Badie, January
Okay, you say, we just can`t let Diaz die on the
highway. As humanitarians we must try to save him.
But take a hypothetical “Gloria,” a twenty-year old
Los Angeles resident who is seven months pregnant? Like
Diaz, Gloria is uninsured, unemployed and illegally in
Medi-Cal will cover Gloria`s prenatal care and child
If Gloria doesn`t speak English, the hospital must, by
law, provide her with a Spanish-speaking
In the event of post-partum complications, California
will absorb all of the costs.
U.S. taxpayers have spent hundred of millions on
patients like Diaz and Gloria. As a consequence, the
states are facing a crisis of unparalleled magnitude. As
Los Angeles Times columnist Ronald Brownstein
wrote in his December 30 column “Health-Care
Storm Brewing in California Threatens to Swamp U.S.”,
“the impending Medicaid disaster is not a problem the
states can handle alone; their budget shortfalls are too
If you want to reduce the cost of quality health care
for U.S. citizens then you cannot provide it to
every illegal alien in the country.
And if the government can turn its back on health care
for military veterans, as it announced it would last
week, then cutting off aliens shouldn`t be too tough.
On January 17th,
Secretary of Veteran Affairs Anthony J. Principi
stated that VA health care enrollment for
Category 8 veterans would be suspended for one year.
(A Category 8 veteran is one who does not have a
service-connected disability and has an income in excess
World War II veteran Bob Simmons predicts that
“one year” means forever.
In justifying his decision, Principi noted that more
than 200,000 veterans have to wait six months for an
initial appointment and that in today`s economy many
veterans “may have a false expectation of care.”
There`s a slice of American life circa 2003: veterans
wait while illegal aliens go to the head of the line.
U.S. Marine Corps Captain David Brockett who served in
Vietnam more than once between 1968 and 1974 e-mailed
me his observation:
“The G.W. Bush decision to
cut VA health care costs while funneling millions of
dollars into health care for illegals is a kick in the
gut. This decision is indicative of the `I appreciate
your past service but what have you done for me today`
attitude that veteran`s organizations fight each and
“All veterans and their
families are painfully aware of the uphill struggle to
obtain medical services at Veteran`s Affairs hospitals
and clinics. We have to provide a ream of personal,
financial, and military documentation just to get "in"
the system. Once the information is validated then we are
informed what our "share" of the medical expenses will
be. If we submit the information in March, and we lose
our job in April, we have to wait a full year for the VA
to reassess our co-payment. With past funding cuts it is
not unusual for a veteran to have to travel across
several counties to reach a VA medical center.
“Meanwhile, the illegal
simply presents himself to the nearest hospital for a
complete smorgasbord of free medical services. This
"squatter" enjoys all of the freedoms that the veteran
fought for, with none of the pain, suffering, or
expenses associated with them…
“Several generations of
this type of neglect has produced children of veterans
who are cautioned against serving in the military. Simple
solution to this problem is for our government
representatives to receive the same health care services
that veterans do. Let`s see how long they will be willing
to rob Peter to pay Raoul.”
But there may be rays of hope. At the encouragement of
Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Arizona, the General Accounting Office
traveled to southern Arizona to
study the impact of illegal immigrants on Arizona and
other border state hospitals. In 2002, three hospitals
located in Cochise County funded more than $1 million in
uncompensated health care costs, said Jim Dickson, CEO of
the Copper Queen Community Hospital in Bisbee.
surveyed 28 hospitals and found that health care for
illegal aliens totaled at least $40 million in 2002.
Among the changes recommended are:
- Specifying how much follow-up care a hospital must
provide after stabilizing the patient.
- Requiring that tourist visas be issued only if the
applicants document their health status, assume
financial responsibility for health care and agree to
return home after they are stabilized.
- Requiring other countries to accept medical transfers
of their citizens.
- Receiving more cooperation from and among the INS,
immigration lawyers and patients` families. (Good
luck on this one!)
Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla.
`Parasitic` Illegal Aliens Burden U.S. Hospitals,”
Jessica Cantelon, CNSNews.com July 16,
Foley said that the U.S. should net hospital costs out of
foreign aid payments.
enthusiasts, of course, do not agree.
Hector Cora, lawyer for the family of Saul
Diaz, the $1 million illegal I mentioned in my first
paragraph was quoted in
the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
article as saying:
"It`s nice to brush it
off on them (illegal aliens)…But, they contribute to
Georgia`s labor, economy, and pay taxes. Most of the
time, when they go to hospitals, it`s going to be for
delivering babies and critical-type care. You`re talking
about a community that`s almost completely unaware they
are driving up hospital costs. They are not educated
enough to know what the costs are, and that they are
high. You`re basically talking about uneducated people
from a Third World country."
interesting that the Diaz family has money for a
lawyer but not for hospital bills.
immigrants may not know much about medical care.
But one thing
they do know: they get a better deal in the U.S. than
they do in Mexico.
Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English at the Lodi
Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column
since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.