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Requirements in the ER for Illegal Immigrants

September 11, 2004

As the author of federal legislation to provide $1 billion over four years to compensate doctors and hospitals for the costs of providing federally mandated, but uncompensated, emergency medical treatment to illegal aliens, I'd like to correct some inaccuracies in your Sept. 7 editorial. You criticize the law's requirement that hospitals seeking reimbursement ask emergency patients about their immigration status on the assumption that doing so "tends to scare away people who are here illegally." But the questions need not be asked prior to treatment -- in fact, doing so would violate the law if it interfered with quality of care -- and the information gathered need not be shared with law enforcement agencies. No emergency patient need worry about being able to produce "a passport ... in the back of an ambulance." Care must be provided regardless of documentation.

The editorial calls for the use of "surveys or statistical sampling" rather than actual data in determining reimbursement, claiming this was "Congress' original aim." No, it wasn't. Our intent was to aid hospitals and doctors directly -- not states -- for the costs of uncompensated services they are required to provide. The best way to do so is by looking at actual claims.

Sen. Jon Kyl

R-Ariz.

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Wait a minute! When I go to my HMO I have to have identification certifying my eligibility for treatment. When I go to the emergency room I have to have an ID and proof of insurance. When I travel overseas, I have to have my passport/visa for identification. Is it only illegal aliens who do not need identification?

Darrell Miller

Santa Ana

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