Jan. 29, 2003
While Americans without health insurance struggle with the problem of
how to pay for medical care, Mexicans don't have that problem. They just
ride in a Mexican ambulance across the border to a hospital in Arizona,
New Mexico, California or Texas, and get free medical treatment.
The costs are currently paid by a combination of socking the
taxpayers in those four border states plus inflating prices for patients
who pay their own bills, insurance companies and Medicaid.
This ridiculous situation is caused by a combination of U.S.
officials allowing the Mexican cars to cross our border plus the federal
Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, which mandates that U.S.
hospitals with emergency-room services treat anyone who shows up for care
including illegal aliens. This unfunded mandate was legislated by a
Congress that closed its eyes to the costs.
We are not just talking about Mexicans who may have had an accident
close to the border. We are talking about Mexicans with serious health
problems who are deliberately sent to the United States after Mexican
hospitals discover they can't pay for services and have no insurance.
Senators John McCain and John Kyl have proposed a solution for this
dilemma: lighten the tax burden on their own state while shifting it to
U.S. taxpayers nationwide. How parochial! They introduced a bill to hit
the U.S. taxpayers for $200 million for medical treatment of illegal
A study made by the U.S.-Mexico Border Counties Coalition, an
American lobbying group, found that U.S. hospitals in border states
provide at least $200 million a year in uncompensated emergency care to
illegal aliens. In the four border states, 77 hospitals now face a
Uncompensated care to illegal aliens in Arizona cost the Cochise
County Health Department 30 percent of its annual budget, the Copper Queen
Hospital in Bisbee $200,000 out of a net operating income of $300,000, the
University Medical Center in Tucson $10 million, and the Good Samaritan
Regional Medical Center in Tucson $1 million in only the first quarter of
last year. The Southeast Arizona Medical Center in Douglas is on the
verge of bankruptcy and some emergency rooms and pre-natal units have
closed because they can't afford to stay open.
Arizona hospitals have offered donated medical equipment and
ambulances to Mexican medical facilities, but Mexican customs officials
have not permitted much of it to enter Mexico. They apparently prefer to
send their sick to U.S. hospitals rather than care for them in Mexico.
Other costs of dumping of Mexicans on U.S. hospitals include
transporting the seriously ill by helicopter from small border hospitals
to Tucson or Phoenix. This cost ranges from $7,000 to $20,000 a trip.
In San Antonio, University Health System officials have proposed a
statewide quarter-cent sales tax to help hospitals pay for uninsured
persons who show up at the door. During the last three years, Houston's
Harris County Hospital District spent $330 million to treat and immunize
illegal aliens, an amount estimated to be at least 20 percent of the
In California, where the state budget crunch is forcing reductions in
Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, observers warn of an
approaching catastrophe in the health-care system. Almost one in five
Californians lacks health insurance, yet the law requires hospitals to
continue to serve illegal aliens free.
These costs are especially onerous because hospitals are struggling
with falling Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates and rising medical
malpractice premiums, and most states are struggling with revenue
shortfalls. Hospitals are often hit with providing follow-up care when an
uninsured patient remains bedridden for months.
It's not just the border states. Florida hospitals last year spent
$40.5 million providing care to uninsured aliens.
All this is in addition to the many illegal aliens who are injured in
highway accidents when the trucks they are jammed into like sardines are
driven recklessly by uninsured Mexican drivers trying to evade police.
Such accidents have occurred as far away as Utah and Iowa.
Another area where the U.S. taxpayers are taken for chumps is food
stamps given to illegal aliens. Coming from countries that have no
respect for a rule of law, they don't understand that selling food stamps
is a crime.
Food-stamp fraud among illegal aliens came to light in 1996 when Ohio
authorities discovered that a Jordanian man and his uncle had deposited
$24 million in purchased food stamps in the bank accounts associated with
their chain of food and video stores. A ring of Somali asylum seekers
netted $40,000 in food stamp fraud.
When are Americans going to wake up to the price we are paying
because our government won't stop the invasion of illegal aliens?
Phyllis Schlafly column 1-29-03