This information provided by The Federal Observer, http://www.federalobserver.com
By Jon Dougherty ~ WorldNetDaily.com
The Arizona Supreme Court has rejected a plea by the state's Medicaid provider to limit medical coverage for illegal immigrants to emergency room and acute care.
The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, or AHCCCS, manager of the state's Medicaid program, is obligated to provide care to illegals beyond emergency room and other acute care wards, justices ruled unanimously Thursday.
According to Capitol Media Services and the Arizona Daily Star, AHCCCS – which currently pays $75 million to $80 million a year in emergency care for illegals – had refused to reimburse hospitals for services it said were not covered. About one-third of that amount is covered by state taxpayers; the federal government covers the rest.
AHCCCS had argued it was only obligated to pay for emergency treatment – coverage that stopped once patients were moved to non-acute care wards. But Justice Michael Ryan, writing for the high court, called that definition far too narrow.
Frank Lopez, a spokesman for the Medicaid agency, said officials would have to review the ruling, but he expressed confidence AHCCCS would end up paying for the care of illegals who previously were not considered the state's obligation.
A series of lawsuits followed after AHCCCS refused to pay for the extra care in several cases.
In consolidating the complaints, justices said the state Medicaid agency could not base its decision whether or not to pay the claims on where the care was being given at hospitals.
"Whether a patient suffers from an emergency medical condition (that the state must cover) does not depend upon the type of bed or facility the patient may be in at any given time," Justice Ryan wrote.
He said AHCCCS must instead use a standard of care based on whether a patient's symptoms have, or could, put them in serious jeopardy, seriously impair function or result in a severe dysfunction of any organ or body part.
Despite the justices' ruling, the high court did not say whether AHCCCS would have to cover any of the bills that resulted in the lawsuits. Rather, the high court sent the case back to trial judges, asking them to review each patient's record using the correct standard.
Critics of providing unlimited medical care to illegals argue many of them use emergency departments as clinics, a practice that not only can delay care for others but, since E.R. care is more expensive, can also raise the overall costs of operating a hospital. This is especially true in areas suffering from high immigration.
As WorldNetDaily reported, the cost of providing medical care to illegals in and around Los Angeles is rising so fast that many hospitals have cut services or closed emergency departments.
According to Project USA, an immigration reform group, the problem is "epidemic" throughout California. The group adds the problem is compounded because fewer taxes are being paid to support care for illegals.
"Since employers usually pay illegal aliens 'off the books,' neither the employer nor the workers pay payroll taxes," the group says.
Regarding health care, former immigration Lawyer Matt Hayes said "it is amazing that America is willing to provide free medical treatment to people who are not citizens – and even illegal aliens – while the home countries of most all of those people will not do so."
"For the fiscally conservative, free medical treatment for illegal aliens in an emergency is better than free medical treatment for illegal aliens for all maladies, all the time," Hayes said in a column for Fox News.
"But because America is now deluged with illegal immigrants like it has never been – 8 million by the most recent government estimate – the cost to taxpayers, even for emergency medical treatment, has skyrocketed," he said.
The Border Counties Coalition, formed by the elected officials of the 24 U.S. counties that border Mexico, Hayes said, reported medical expenses for illegal immigrations in 2000 was $832 million just for those counties.
Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., says the cost to the entire nation is in the billions.
"According to one estimate, the cost of providing federally-mandated health care to illegal immigrants is between $1.5 billion and $2 billion annually," he said in a Jan. 11, 2002 statement.
August 26, 2003
© 2003 WorldNetDaily.com
Jon E. Dougherty is a staff reporter and columnist for WorldNetDaily .