TX county grapples with care for illegal immigrants

In a debate that resonates across the U.S., leaders in Tarrant County, TX are discovering what the real cost would be if they permit illegal immigrants access to the county's indigent care program. This week, a consultant hired by the JPS Health Network board of managers told executives and officials that the cost would be $41.2 million a year, or about 10 percent of the hospital's current operating budget. For that amount, the hospital could see 29,000 new patients and would probably end up admitting about 385 more people to the hospital. By 2017, the consulting firm said, the influx of immigrants would force the hospital to expand by 70 beds. However, a immigrant advocacy group contends that it would cost dramatically less, about $4.2 million a year, to provide care for this population. That's because illegal immigrants are generally young and healthy with little need for ongoing medical care, the advocates said.

To learn more about the debate:
- read this Fort Worth Star-Telegram article