- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 21, 2004

ANNAPOLIS — Legislation calling for a study on how illegal aliens contribute to Maryland’s rising health care costs will re-emerge as an issue when the General Assembly convenes in January.

“Out of all the issues related to illegals, health care struck the biggest response,” said Delegate Pat McDonough.

Mr. McDonough said he and Delegate Richard K. Impallaria plan to reintroduce legislation that would permit a study. The pair of Baltimore County Republicans sought tougher laws on illegal immigration through a series of bills in the last legislative session.

A Democratic-controlled House committee killed their study bill this year.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, has expressed concern over the strains that illegal immigrants place on health care.

“There is a component of illegal immigrants causing pressure on our health care delivery system,” Mr. Ehrlich told editors and reporters from The Washington Times on Monday during a luncheon at the Governor’s Mansion.

State Budget Secretary James C. “Chip” DiPaula Jr. estimated that illegals alien cost taxpayers more than $30 million a year for health care, but he had no firm data to support that estimate.

“It is federal law that we provide emergency medical service for those in need regardless of their immigration status, ” Mr. DiPaula said yesterday, adding that the state’s “health agency is taking a look at” the effect of illegal immigration on health care.

Mr. McDonough said he believes the cost is closer to $100 million. He lauded Mr. Ehrlich for his concern.

“The governor’s comments reflect the feeling of the overwhelming majority of people in this state,” he said. “People … are beginning to understand the connection between illegals and the burdens they cause on ordinary citizens: like health care cost, educating illegals’ children and automobile insurance.”

Delegate Victor R. Ramirez, Prince George’s County Democrat, said instead the “health care issue should be put on the shoulders of the businesses that profit from [illegal immigration].”

Mr. Ramirez also had words for the governor: “[Mr. Ehrlich] is free to say what he wants to say. I think he needs to follow his own identity instead of [Comptroller William Donald Schaefer].”

Last month, Mr. Schaefer, a Democrat and former governor, said that illegal aliens drain health care resources after Health Secretary Nelson J. Sabatini told him illegal immigrants cost the state about $40 million.

“Our own people, that is legitimate Americans, cannot get health care,” Mr. Schaefer said, adding that it would be a “tragedy” if the country becomes English- and Spanish-speaking.

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