- The Washington Times - Friday, August 20, 2004

D.C. hospitals are seeking federal funds allotted to Maryland and Virginia hospitals to pay for illegal aliens from neighboring states who receive treatment in D.C. emergency rooms.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will allocate $250 million next year to reimburse hospitals for emergency-room treatment of illegal aliens.

Under the new federal program, D.C. hospitals would receive $167,000 next year, while Maryland would get $1.3 million and Virginia $2.4 million.

D.C. hospitals say they are being shortchanged because the funding breakdown doesn’t account for illegal aliens from other states who end up in D.C. emergency rooms.

“District hospitals provide care to thousands of Maryland and Virginia residents and should receive reimbursement from those states’ allotments,” Robert Malson, president of the D.C. Hospital Association, wrote in a letter on Monday to the federal agency.

Funding is based on the estimated number of illegal aliens living in each jurisdiction. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 7,000 illegal aliens live in the District, 56,000 reside in Maryland and 110,000 live in Virginia.

Mr. Malson said illegal aliens from Maryland and Virginia are “routinely treated in D.C. emergency departments” and recommended that a percentage of federal funds for treating illegal aliens “could be reallocated to D.C. hospitals from the Maryland allotment or Virginia’s allotment.”

Mary Kahn, spokeswoman for the federal agency, said federal officials would review the D.C. hospital association’s request, but she declined to speculate whether the letter would prompt any changes.

The prospect of losing federal funds to D.C. hospitals doesn’t sit well with Maryland hospital officials.

“It’s certainly not in our best interests,” Dawn Marks, spokeswoman for the Maryland Hospital Association, said yesterday.

“The D.C. Hospital Association did direct their comments to [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services], so it’s something they would have to decide.”

The Virginia Hospital Association had no comment on the request yesterday.

Ms. Marks also questioned whether the D.C. Hospital Association had any statistics on the number of illegal aliens from Virginia and Maryland who receive emergency care in the District.

“D.C. has to have some sort of documentation to show how many undocumented patients are coming in from Maryland and Virginia,” she said.

City hospital officials acknowledged that no such statistics are available.

“But if push comes to shove and if [federal officials] say to us, ‘OK, maybe we underestimated the District’s burden, so give us some data,’ then I think the hospitals would get some data together real fast,” said Debi Tucker, vice president for government affairs for the city’s hospital association.

Mr. Malson has proposed that D.C. hospitals start tracking the flow of illegal alien patients into the District. He said city hospitals could provide quarterly reports to the federal government on the number of illegal aliens from neighboring states who receive emergency care in the District.

Jack Martin, special projects director for the Federation of American Immigration Reform, said D.C. hospitals “are probably justified in that they’re getting patients from the suburbs.”

“They probably are underreported,” he said of federal statistics showing 7,000 illegal aliens in the District.

The D.C. hospital group’s push for Maryland and Virginia funds comes a month after Maryland hospitals sought millions of dollars from D.C. government for treating indigent city residents.

Prince George’s County Hospital administrators billed the District more than $5 million for treating thousands of indigent D.C. residents after the city closed D.C. General Hospital in Ward 6.

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams has balked at paying the bill, but he said the city should start keeping track of how many indigent patients from outside the District are treated in city hospitals.

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