- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 5, 2003

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, joined with five Republicans yesterday in calling for the passage of legislation to reimburse states for the costs of federally mandated emergency health care for illegal aliens.

At a press conference, Mrs. Clinton joined with Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, Jon Kyl and John McCain of Arizona, and Rep. John Shadegg, also an Arizona Republican, in supporting legislation offered by Mr. Kyl that would reimburse the states $1.45 billion a year.

"We have made a lot of progress in educating senators about the overwhelming costs imposed on local border communities for emergency care of illegal immigrants," said Mr. Kyl, chairman of the Senate Finance subcommittee on health care.

"Due in part to these extraordinary costs, many Arizona hospitals face serious financial difficulties, some have cut back services, and state residents have seen longer lines and fewer doctors to care for them," he said.

Last year, the U.S.-Mexico Border Counties Coalition said health care facilities in 28 border counties lost nearly $200 million in one year in costs for the emergency medical treatment of illegal aliens.

The coalition, in a 133-page report, said one in four dollars of uncompensated emergency medical costs for the border hospitals was attributable to illegal aliens. The study calculated the one-year losses at $79 million in California, $74 million in Texas, $31 million in Arizona and $6 million in New Mexico.

Medical care for illegal aliens is required under the "Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act," which prohibits emergency rooms from turning any patient away in need of emergency care. The amount of $1.45 billion is the estimated cost to the country per year.

Mr. Kyl said the bill would assist border states experiencing the growing cost of providing federally mandated care to illegal aliens.

The Southeast Medical Center in Douglas, Ariz., is on the verge of bankruptcy because of uncompensated care to illegal aliens; the Cochise County, Ariz., Health Department, inundated with immigration issues, spends 30 percent of its annual $9 million budget on illegal aliens; and Tucson's University Medical Center faces $10 million "in uncompensated care to foreign nationals" this year.

Tucson's Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center lost $1 million for its treatment of illegal immigrants in the first quarter of fiscal 2002; and the Regional Medical Center Hospital and Pioneers Memorial Hospital, both in El Centro, Calif., lost more than $1.5 million last year in their treatment of illegal aliens.

San Diego's Scripps Memorial Hospital closed after losing more than $5 million a year in unreimbursed medical care, much of it for illegal aliens.

Mr. Kyl said taxpayers in Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and California pay a disproportionate share of the expenses for treating illegal aliens, adding that it is the "responsibility of the federal government to control illegal immigration."

He said that when that does not happen, "states that happen to be in the pathway of most illegal immigrants should not be left picking up the tab."

A companion bill has been introduced in the House by Rep. Jim Kolbe, Arizona Republican, endorsed by Arizona Reps. Jeff Flake, J.D. Hayworth and Rick Renzi, all Republicans, and Ed Pastor and Raul M. Grijalva, both Democrats. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, Texas Democrat, also endorsed the bill.

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