Alicia Robinson, L. A. Times, Jun. 3
Despite overwhelming opposition to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s bill that would require hospitals to check the immigration status of noncitizens they treat, the congressman may get his way after all. The controversial bill was voted down by 331 of 419 House members May 18, but Rohrabacher’s spokesman Aaron Lewis said Wednesday that the General Accounting Office is likely to recommend that hospitals collect immigration data anyway.
Rohrabacher’s bill was an attempt to cut the flow of illegal immigrants by lopping benefits they can receive. It also would have addressed how to disburse the $1 billion over four years that a federal Medicare bill earmarked to pay back hospitals offering care to illegal immigrants who can’t pay.
The GAO issued a report Friday that recommends the secretary of health and human services “develop appropriate internal controls to ensure payments are made only for unreimbursed emergency services for undocumented or certain other aliens.”
When hospitals want to request reimbursement, Lewis said, “you have to determine the legality or illegality of the patient.”
Critics of Rohrabacher’s bill included some hospital groups, which said it could create public health risks because fear of deportation might deter immigrants from seeking medical care. Critics also said hospital workers can’t be expected to act as immigration officials.