Border-state hospitals in immigration debate

Should hospitals get involved in the debate on illegal immigration? Like it or not, those in border areas already are involved, especially public facilities already strained by the demands of indigent citizens. Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas treats all comers with no questions asked, while JPS Health Network in nearby Fort Worth wants to see immigration documents before it provides subsidized non-urgent care. JPS still provides emergency and maternity services to everyone, regardless of status, but drawing distinctions is an uncomfortable business, JPS senior VP Robert Earley tells The New York Times. "I don't think you should ask the hospital to make moral decisions for the State of Texas or, for that matter, for the United States," he says.

This is a growing issue. One-fifth of last year's patients in the public health system of Harris County (which includes Houston) were undocumented immigrants, and their care cost the county almost $100 million, or 14 percent of its budget. California spent over $1 billion last year on unreimbursed care for illegal immigrants. But both Parkland and JPS officials say that the immigrants have a better record of paying their hospital bills than low-income Americans do.

- read this article in The New York Times