Corporate Compliance

Bush administration earmarks $1 billion for care for illegal immigrants

Compliance Monitor, May 18, 2005

The Bush administration announced May 9 that it has approved $1 billion to pay for emergency care for illegal immigrants through September 2008, The New York Times reported.

The funds will come from the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003, although the payments are unrelated to the federal program, the Times reported. Senators from border states such as Arizona were integral in securing the funding because treating illegal immigrants represents an immense financial burden for hospitals. Under current laws, the facilities must provide the treatment regardless of a person's immigration status or ability to pay.

CMS Administrator Mark B. McClellan, MD, said that although the new program requires hospitals to ascertain immigration status, staff should not ask patients the question directly, the Times reported. Instead, McClellan recommended using "indirect questions," such as the following:

  • Is the person eligible for Medicaid? (If so payment is generally not available under the program.)
  • Has the person reported a foreign place of birth?
  • Does the person have a border-crossing card like those issued to Mexican citizens?
  • Does the person have a foreign passport, driver's license, or identification card?

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