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Old 12-03-2007, 11:00 AM
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Twisp Twisp is offline
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Hospital to cut illegal immigrant cancer care

Houston Chronicle
The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston may soon close its doors to poor illegal immigrants who need cancer care, a move that could increase the patient load in Harris County.

The medical school, unable to meet the demand for cancer care by indigent patients with limited state funds, is considering a policy that would require patients to prove they're here legally to qualify for financial assistance. That would save the hospital system money but contradict its mission of providing care for the poor.

"Everyday, very difficult decisions have to be made because there are too few resources for the demand," said Karen Sexton, vice president and CEO of hospitals and clinics at the medical branch.

The policy decision, which has been under consideration for months by the medical branch's Cancer Patients Acceptance Committee, is expected to be made by January and any changes would be effective immediately, Sexton said.

If cancer patients are turned away in Galveston, they'll likely find their way to hospitals in Houston, health care officials said.

"The Harris County Hospital District and probably to some degree M.D. Anderson can't help but be affected by this," said Dr. Ronald Walters, associate vice president for medical operations at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. "It should worry the taxpayers of at least Harris County."

All hospitals, both public and private, are required to treat emergency-room patients, regardless of whether they're insured or qualify for Medicaid. That requirement is straining hospitals across the country, and some have closed because of financial losses from treating the uninsured.

It's also unusual for hospitals, particularly public ones, to turn away patients who need non-emergency care, although they're not required by law to treat them. But some facilities, including one in Fort Worth, now deny indigent patients who can't prove they're here legally as a cost-cutting measure.


Demand vs. dollars

The issue is part of a larger debate over immigration, particularly whether illegal immigrants should have access to taxpayer-funded services, including education.
"When you stop providing care for one service, it becomes a slippery slope," said Lovell Jones, co-founder of the Houston-based Intercultural Cancer Center, a policy group. Turning away illegal patients presents opportunities for racial profiling, he said, and Hispanics are likely to be hit hardest.

Others argue state residents should have priority when it comes to taxpayer-supported services.

"Every dollar the state of Texas or Harris County and the city of Houston spends on health care for people who aren't supposed to be in the country is a dollar they can't spend on citizens and legal immigrants," said Steven Camarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based group that advocates tighter immigration controls.

Sexton, who acknowledged the issue raises ethical questions, said the medical branch's $1.4 billion annual budget included about $12 million this year to treat indigent cancer patients, but it wasn't enough.

Citizenship is not considered by the Harris County Hospital District — and it shouldn't be since it receives state funding for indigent care, said King Hillier, vice president of public policy and government relations of the district, which operates Ben Taub General, Houston's largest public hospital.

"We do not question citizenship status," he told the Galveston County Daily News. "If they live in Harris County and can prove residency, then they are paying taxes. If they're paying rent, then their landlord is paying property taxes to the hospital district."


'A gut-wrenching decision'

The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, which also is state-funded, sometimes turns away poor, undocumented immigrants who need care, but its policy is to help those patients as often as possible, said Walters, who helps decide who gets care and who doesn't. "It is always a gut-wrenching decision," he said.
About 21 percent of the uninsured population in Texas are illegal immigrants, according to a study released last month by Camarota's group, the Center for Immigration Studies.

Another report, published last week in the Archives of Internal Medicine, challenged the perception illegal immigrants are disproportionately burdening the health care system. They're 50 percent less likely than U.S.-born Latinos to use emergency rooms in California, according to the report. Experts said they likely fear being reported to authorities.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


Sign of things to come?
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Old 12-03-2007, 12:00 PM
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You posted the article, what do you think about it...is this good or bad in your opinion?
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Old 12-03-2007, 12:40 PM
DividedThigh DividedThigh is offline
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wow, that is an interesting move, dont know what i think of it, i have compassion for folks who need help and at the same time i believe in lawful immigration, and do not agree with illegal anything, dt
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Old 12-03-2007, 02:03 PM
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pelathais pelathais is offline
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I think a few million barrels of oil from PEMEX each year would get those treatment facilities opened up to Mexican nationals again.

There's no reason to be heartless. And it's the Mexican government that has been heartless toward its people since 1821.
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Old 12-03-2007, 02:44 PM
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Esther Esther is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pelathais View Post
I think a few million barrels of oil from PEMEX each year would get those treatment facilities opened up to Mexican nationals again.

There's no reason to be heartless. And it's the Mexican government that has been heartless toward its people since 1821.
I was thinking something very similiar.

The medical system is not an endless supply without money. It is getting abused more than ever.
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