In 2003, a federal law was passed that added prescription drugs to Medicare. Contained in that law was a provision that created a pool of money to be used to reimburse cities for the medical care of illegal aliens that was otherwise not paid for. From 2005 through 2008, $250 a year was set aside and divided among the states to pay for the uncompensated medical care of illegals. Even though most states have long depleted their allotted funds, there was still $13 million in Arizona’s portion at the start of this year. However, getting that reimbursement has proven to be difficult for many Arizona cities.
I still have family and friends that live in Arizona and they’ve told me that many hospitals and urgent care centers in the smaller border towns have had to close their doors because of illegal aliens. These health centers are required to provide care to illegals, but usually are unable to collect any money for the services provided. It doesn’t take long for them to find themselves so far in the red that they can no longer stay open. That leaves residents with no immediate medical facilities nearby, causing them to have to drive further north to find a hospital, urgent care center or emergency services.
Now I hear that the city of Nogales, probably the most popular border town in Arizona, is being stiffed by the federal government for ambulance calls involving illegals. Due to the heavy border traffic in Nogales, it is also a central point for illegal crossings, resulting in a high concentration of Border Patrol, Drug Enforcement and Customs’ agents. Whenever an illegal is injured, such as trying jump the high border fence, they call for city ambulances to pick up the illegal and transport them to the hospital. Supposedly, the federal government, according to the 2003 law is supposed to reimburse the city for those ambulance runs.
In the 2011-12 fiscal year, the city billed the feds $277,382 for 230 ambulance calls. The feds paid the city a total of $29,919. For the 2012-13 fiscal year, the city billed the feds $300,058 for 248 ambulance calls involving illegals and they received only $47,740 in reimbursements. The city is only receiving about twenty cents for every dollar billed to the feds.
This leaves the city in a financial predicament. The ambulance calls involving illegals are being called by the feds, who according to the law is supposed to reimburse the city for them, but are only paying them around 20% of the cost. That leaves the city ambulance service with huge deficits which have to be made up elsewhere while the city struggles to get the feds to pay up according to the law.
Worse yet is that the federal reimbursement program has technically expired, even though there is still money left in Arizona’s account. Unless members of Congress move to re-establish the reimbursements, border communities will continue to be forced to treat illegals without any hope of getting paid or reimbursed by the federal government. The result will be more and more clinics, hospitals and urgent care centers will be forced to close their doors because they can’t afford to provide that much free treatment for illegals. US residents in these towns will find they will have to travel further and further to reach needed medical facilities. In some cases, the extra travel time may prove to be too much to save a life.
Part of me wonders if the tensions between Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and President Obama have anything to do with the feds not reimbursing Nogales as they are required to do. She has been pressuring Obama to come and tour the border with her so she can show him firsthand all of the issues facing Arizona over illegals crossing into her state, but Obama refuses to go.
Keep in mind that the same federal government that offers free medical care to illegal aliens has caused the cost of medical care to US citizens to skyrocket. Millions of Americans can no longer afford medical care because of the costs of Obamacare and people wonder why so many Americans dislike illegals as much as we do.