TUCSON- A federal fund that helps hospitals cover some of the costs of treating illegal immigrants will only be around for a few more months unless something is done and more cash is found.
Officials with University Medical Center, Tucson Medical Center and Carondelet Health Network were in Washington Tuesday trying to get the federal government to keep the fund alive, rather than letting it expire in September.
Kevin Burns, chief financial officer for University Medical Center, said UMC receives $1 million to $2 million a year to help cover the estimated $5 million to $6 million in costs of caring for illegal immigrants.
The federal mandate helps with costs until a patient is stable. "The moment they are deemed stable, that program no longer covers them," Burns said. "Yet that patient could end up in a hospital bed for 20 to 30 days and we don't get any compensation for that."
The federal program set aside $250 million each year from September 2004 to September 2008 to be divided among the 50 states for the medical care of illegal immigrants.
Arizona received most of it.
Bill Pike, director of public policy and community affairs for Carondelet Health Network, said Carondelet estimates that caring for illegal immigrants and uninsured patients costs about $4 million each year. Those costs get shifted to patients who pay or have insurance, Pike said.
"We believe in 100 percent access to health care in general, but when you do have individuals show up in the ER without insurance whether they are undocumented or uninsured it creates a financial burden," Pike said.
Submitted by EGH in El Paso.