Hospitals passing up federal funding

Hospitals aren't exactly falling all over themselves to claim their share of a $1 billion fund designed to alleviate hospital spending on immigrants' unpaid hospital costs. The controversial federal program allows hospitals to reclaim some of the money they spend on providing care for uninsured immigrants but only 15 percent of the money has been claimed by hospitals thus far. There are several theories as to why hospitals are reluctant to help themselves to the money. For one thing, hospital officials are deterred by the amount of time and paperwork involved in claiming money from the fund. They're also concerned about how the government calculates the costs for their services. In addition, the program requires that hospitals ask immigrants for proof of birth outside of the U.S. This makes immigrants nervous even though hospitals don't share the information with the INS. With this many barriers to getting their share of the money, many hospitals have decided that the hassle just isn't worth the time. Other overstressed facilities, however, think that every little bit of extra money counts.

For more on the fund:
- read this Chicago Tribune report