Hospital District Struggles With Burden From Beyond Its Borders

Bill Murphy, Houston Chronicle, Mar. 1

After he was caught illegally crossing the Rio Grande in November, Ricardo, a 43-year-old Honduran with six children to feed, was taken to a detention center in the Valley.

He suffered a heart attack in late December and was treated at a Harlingen hospital. But immigration authorities balked at paying for heart surgery and released him, advising him to seek treatment on his own, he says.

Still weak, he made his way to Houston and eventually to Ben Taub General Hospital, where he underwent heart surgery in January.

!<)patientload.jpg! As the cash-strapped Harris County Hospital District operates on a budget that can’t keep up with the needs of the county’s poor, almost a third of its admitted hospital patients are coming from outside the county and even outside the nation. Over the past 10 years, the district has provided $510 million in unreimbursed care to illegal immigrants, the district says. Another $101 million was spent on unreimbursed care for residents of surrounding counties. {snip} Read the rest of this story here.

More Minnesotans Are Not Insured

Glenn Howatt and Josephine Marcotty, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Feb. 26

The number of Minnesotans without health insurance jumped nearly 30 percent over the past three years, state researchers announced Friday.

At a time when health care costs continue to rise at a double-digit pace annually, the increase in the number of uninsured could put additional pressure on the state budget as well as raise health care costs for those with health insurance, experts said.

{snip}

The percentage of Minnesotans without health insurance jumped from 5.4 percent in 2001 to 6.7 percent in 2004, according to the study, conducted by the University of Minnesota for the state Health Department.

However, nearly one-third of Hispanics didn’t have insurance coverage in 2004, nearly double the rate in 2001.

{snip}

But there is some agreement that an increase in the uninsured means that both taxpayers and those with health insurance will pay the price.

“You get into a death spiral,” said Sen. Linda Berglin, DFL-Minneapolis. “There are more and more uninsured, more and more uncompensated care, more and more costs left on the people who do have insurance,” she said.

As more people become uninsured, they end up relying on government programs for health insurance, said Rep. Fran Bradley, R-Rochester.

“If you are a taxpayer, you should be alarmed, because there is a high probability they will be on our doorstep for taxpayer dollars,” he said. “There is a human side, but we will end up paying for it.”

{snip}

Read the rest of this story here.

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