Delaware hospitals work to treat illegal immigrants

This is the story of one more healthcare system's struggle to provide humane, cost-efficient care to an underserved population, in this case illegal immigrants. Like other uninsured patients, Delaware's illegal immigrants often have little access to primary care. When they're sick, they end up in the emergency rooms of Delaware's hospitals, crowding out insured patients while generating bills they can't pay. The hospitals get some federal funding to compensate for the cost of caring for these illegal aliens, but last year they got only $256,000, or less than 1 percent of their uncompensated care costs.

To deal with the problem, one hospital is spending about $265,000 a year to send out a van and doctor providing primary care out in the community. Also, the Delmarva Rural Ministries gets $1.3 million a year to provide low-cost medical services through its Kent Community Health Center. The center treats about 3,000 patients per year. All told, nothing unique here--just a reminder that this problem isn't going to go away.

For more background on this issue:
- read the article in The News Journal