Mothers Will Likely Keep Coming For Hospital Care

Jennifer C. Smith, Monitor (McAllen, Tex.), Nov. 20

WESLACO—Sister Angela Murdaugh suspects a large number of the pregnant mothers she sees daily at Holy Family Services Birthing Center in Weslaco are undocumented immigrants.

But their immigration status does not stop her from offering prenatal, labor and delivery and postpartum care.

“We never pay attention to their documentation,” she said. “It’s a non-issue for us.”

Other birthing facilities in the Rio Grande Valley echoed her sentiments, saying healthy babies are more important to them—and to their undocumented mothers—than the stamp of U.S. citizenship.

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While U.S. citizenship can be a draw for undocumented pregnant women, the country’s stellar medical care is the greatest attraction, they say.

“This is the promised land,” said Mario Garza, chief operations officer for Mission Regional Medical Center. “If you can give your kids a chance to live in a more advanced society with benefits, why not?”

Of the 3,000 births expected annually at Mission Regional, 800 will be to undocumented mothers. Most will be in and out of the hospital within a few days, he said.

“They stay with a friend or relative and then go back to Mexico,” he said.

Yet their short stay equals a large financial burden upon the hospital. Many undocumented mothers supply U.S. addresses, making them eligible for emergency Medicaid, which covers the cost of pregnancy-related medical services.

Medicaid reimburses the hospital $1,600 for a vaginal delivery that costs $2,500, and subsidizes $2,900 for a Caesarean section that costs about $4,000. The difference charged by the hospital to the undocumented patient often goes uncollected, Garza said.

“In the universe of Mexican nationals, 10 percent pay cash,” he said. “The vast majority do not pay.”

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