As United States hospitals deal with the constant need to cut expensive costs of care, some are choosing “unlawful” deportations of illegal patients in order to save money, according to a new report by the Center for Social Justice at Seton Hall University School of Law and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.
The report revealed that over the past six years, several organizations have registered over 800 cases of attempted or achieved “medical repatriations” – a term used when a hospital deports an injured or sick immigrant to a different medical facility in their home country without their consent.
According to the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, hospitals are required to screen and treat all patients regardless of their health insurance coverage or immigration status – for emergency care.
Once a patient is in stabilized condition, the hospital is technically not required to continue care. However, some hospitals have been deporting illegal immigrants even though the U.S. government is the only authority that can perform this action.
As outlined in the report, medical repatriation is considered a human rights violation mainly because many of these hospitals act as “unauthorized immigration officers.”
Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, experts suggest that medical repatriation may become a more common practice. Many new people will have coverage under the law, while illegal immigrants will not. Additionally, hospitals will be losing large amounts of Medicaid disproportionate share hospital payments – or DSH payments – that are given to hospitals that give care to a larger number of undocumented immigrants or Medicaid patients.
The report said:
“Faced with the prospect of decreased DSH payments, many hospitals that regularly treat this patient population may resort to medical repatriation in an effort to offset the costs of providing post-acute care to undocumented immigrants.”
Most of the cases of medical repatriation occur when the patients are in an unconscious state. The hospital choose this method of action as opposed to treating the patients, because they believe the flights costs will be significantly less than all the medical expenses.
As of now, the American Hospital Association does not monitor hospitals that remove or deport immigrants. The American Medical Association has emphasized the need for better policy and care for immigrant populations.
The Center for Social Justice has urged the Department of Health and Human Services to monitor medical repatriations and enforce sanctions on hospitals that take part in “involuntary” medical repatriations.
In 2009, a report stated that Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital was offering to send immigrant patients home to their countries, instead of racking up medical bills in the U.S. that they would be unable to pay. Written by Kelly Fitzgerald