Andrew D. Smith, Times (Trenton), January 9, 2005
New Jersey’s escalating population of illegal immigrants is placing an ever-growing burden on the state’s hospitals, which expect to lose $200 million this year on care to the underground community.
Doctors and administrators around the state are complaining that the cost of treating illegal immigrants has forced them to delay the purchase of life-saving technology or the addition of valuable staff.
And according to the New Jersey Hospital Association (NJHA) in West Windsor, the burden will only increase unless state or federal agencies step in and pay the bills.
Given the uncertainty about how many immigrants live in the country illegally, no one can say exactly how much they cost the nation’s hospitals.
However, given that New Jersey’s illegal aliens cost hospitals an estimated $200 million, the many millions of illegal aliens across the nation surely cost several billion dollars per year. The hospitals in just one city, Los Angeles, report that they lose $350 million a year on illegal immigrants.
The federal government bears primary responsibility for enforcing the nation’s immigration laws, but it never agreed to foot the bill for those who escape its grasp.
To compensate for the multibillion-dollar costs that illegal aliens impose upon the nation’s hospitals, for example, the federal government is planning to spend just $200 million a year, nationwide, for the next four years.
Hospitals in New Jersey expect to receive about $5.7 million a year — about 3 percent of the costs they’ll incur — during that period.
In California, which has far more illegal aliens than New Jersey, the state medical association reports the cost of caring for illegal immigrants has helped force 60 emergency rooms to close during the past decade.
Those closures, in turn, have led to crowding at many of the others. In big cities from Sacramento to San Diego, patients with minor injuries often must wait hours for care.
The situation will likely get worse in the next few years.
The rate of closures is on the rise, according to reports from the California Medical Association, and considering that some 80 percent of the state’s emergency rooms report that they now lose money, largely because of the care they give away to illegal immigrants, hundreds more emergency rooms may be at risk.
In Arizona, along the Mexican border, dozens of hospitals have cut back on services to cover the money they lose by providing free care to illegal immigrants. Administrators from one facility, the Southeast Arizona Medical Center, told local and national publications that the costs of caring for aliens drove them out of business.