U.S. hospitals repatriating sick/injured undocumented immigrants

April 24, 2013 at 7:48 PM
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NEWARK, N.J., April 24 (UPI) -- Two U.S. non-profit groups say they have documented hundreds of medical repatriation cases in which undocumented immigrants were sent to their home countries.

The Center for Social Justice at Seton Hall University School of Law, and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, cited more than 800 cases of attempted or actual medical deportations in recent years -- including a 19-year-old girl who died shortly after being wheeled out of a hospital back entrance and transferred to Mexico; a car crash victim who died shortly after being left on the tarmac at an airport in Guatemala; and a young man with catastrophic brain injury who remains bed-ridden after being forcibly deported to his elderly mother's hilltop home in Guatemala.

"Medical deportations will likely increase as safety net hospitals, which provide the majority of care to undocumented and un- or underinsured patients, encounter tremendous financial pressure resulting from dramatic funding cutbacks under the Affordable Care Act," the report said.

The Affordable Care Act makes cuts to safety net hospitals because extending health insurance for about 30 million more people is expected to result in a decrease in U.S. citizens seeking emergency room care when ill and uninsured.

The federal government has been paying these hospitals extra to care for the uninsured, but the payments are scheduled to be cut once healthcare reform is fully implemented.

"When immigrants are in need of ongoing medical care, they find themselves at the crossroads of two systems that are in dire need of reform -- healthcare and immigration law. Aside from emergency care, hospitals are not reimbursed by the government for providing ongoing treatment for uninsured immigrant patients," Lori A. Nessel, a professor at Seton Hall University School of Law and director of the School's Center for Social Justice, said in a statement. "Therefore, many hospitals are engaging in de facto deportations of immigrant patients without any governmental oversight or accountability. This type of situation is ripe for abuse."

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