In a previous post we wrote about how the recent health care overhaul was not crafted in such a way to help undocumented immigrants. In fact, the 2010 law bans these individuals from Medicaid coverage, and pertains only to citizens of the United States. This does not men however that such individuals are completely left in the lurch. There is in fact a Florida state-federal health insurance program in place, the funds from which are often used to cover medical bills accumulated by immigrants who are in the country without authorization.
Each year, around $2 billion is taken from this fund, which has been in existence for over 20 years, to cover emergency costs accumulated by individuals below a certain income threshold. Many of the individuals who meet the income requirement are undocumented immigrants.
The state of Florida attempted to change the qualifications for receiving such funds last year which would have limited the conditions under which hospitals could receive the money, potentially leaving many hospitals without compensation. An administrative law judge determined that the change from reimbursement in situations where care was "medically necessary to relieve or eliminate the emergency medical condition," to coverage until the patient was "stabilized," was not proper however. This was because it did not undergo the proper process, including a public hearing.
How this issue was will ultimately be resolved remains to be seen as the state of Florida has appealed the decision of the ALJ.
Reportedly much of the money paid from this fund is used to cover the costs associated with delivering babies to undocumented immigrants. While most would agree it is good that the babies' whose births are being covered by these funds are receiving proper medical care as they enter the world, there is a downside. Because the money cannot be used in non-emergency medical situations, the mothers of these babies are not receiving prenatal care. This in turn could make the delivery more complicated and lead to medical problems for either the mother, the baby (who is a U.S. citizen), or both.
Source: The Miami Herald, "$2 billion Medicaid program helps mostly illegal immigrants," Phil Galewitz, Feb. 12, 2013
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