Posted on July 7, 2011

Hospitals May Absorb $26 Million Annually in Care for Undocumented

Tom Kisken, Ventura County Star, July 3, 2011

Hospitals across California absorb roughly $1.25 billion a year in care for illegal immigrants, including about $26 million in Ventura County, according to a state hospital association supporting a national push for more federal funding for uncompensated care.

Eight general care hospitals in Ventura County charge a total of more than $260 million a year on care for uninsured or under-insured patients that isn’t compensated, according to data provided by hospital officials. There are no specific numbers on the portion of uncompensated care spent on illegal immigrants, with hospitals saying they don’t track the population. But California Hospital Association leaders estimate about 10 percent of a hospital’s uncovered costs come from people without legal status in the United States.

“If they don’t have Social Security or photo identification or a Mexican consulate card, if they don’t have any of those, we estimate they are undocumented,” said Jan Emerson-Shea, vice president of external affairs with the California Hospital Association.

She characterized the $1.25 billion calculation for 2010 as imperfect, offering certainty only on what direction the number is headed.

“It absolutely is growing,” she said.


Uncompensated care for illegal immigrants is a huge problem because hospitals are forced to pass on the costs, said U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach.

“When you see $5 aspirin, it’s not $5 aspirin, it’s not corruption, it’s the hospital trying to take care of the illegal alien who didn’t have insurance,” Rohrabacher said.

He contends the answer isn’t in providing more money for hospitals, but rather in reducing the illegal immigrant population. {snip}

“As long as we’re providing benefits, more and more of them will come to get the benefits. You can’t blame them for that,” he said, then assessing the financial impacts of illegal immigration. “It’s bankrupting our country.”


U.S. Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, thinks the answer is coming up with an immigration reform solution that provides a pathway for undocumented people to become legal residents.

If the White House and Congress come up with a plan for more funding for hospitals, it means taxpayers will be hit, Capps said. But if there’s not more funding, insurance premiums will rise as hospitals try to pass on their uncompensated costs.

“Taxpayers end up paying no matter what,” she said.