Blake Schmidt, Yuma Sun (Az.), Aug. 6
Yuma Regional Medical Center will receive more than $1 million annually in federal funds to help cover the estimated $2 million the hospital spends each year by giving uncompensated care to illegal immigrants, a hospital official said.
Paying patients are the ones footing the bill for uncompensated illegal immigrant care, a cost that is “eating into” the nonprofit hospital’s potential to grow and expand its services, said Pat Walz, YRMC chief financial officer.
Under a new federal program, $1 billion over four years will be allocated to reimburse hospitals nationwide, plus certain physicians and ambulance providers for emergency services provided to illegal immigrants, according to Walz.
He estimated that Yuma will receive about half of what the hospital pays each year for uncompensated illegal immigrant health care, a projection he based on Arizona’s allocated portion of the funds.
The estimated annual cost to hospitals and other providers of emergency health care nationwide for illegal aliens — mandated but not funded by the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) — is $1.45 billion, according to congressionally commissioned research from the MTG Corporation.
Walz’s estimate comes after news that nearly one in three babies born in Yuma County in 2002 were born to illegal immigrant mothers, according to a recent report by the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington, D.C., think tank that pushes for anti-immigration policy. The rate is the highest in all of Arizona and among the highest in the country.
Dr. Dale Webb, a YRMC surgeon and former hospital district board and operating board chairman, said he knows of many cases of Mexican nationals coming to the United States to receive health services free of charge.
“To them it’s a joke. They come up knowing they don’t have to pay for health care,” he said.