"'Border baby' boom strains S. Texas"
Posted Mon, Sep 9, 2006 at 3:26 am
James Pinkerton of the Houston Chronicle offers a suprisingly even-handed article:
As for the costs:
First it was a trickle, now it's a flood.They also quote a Starr County obstetrician: "The word is out: Come to Starr County and get delivered for free. Why pay $1,000 in Mexico when you can get it for free?" However, it also has this:
Rising numbers of undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Central America are streaming into Texas to give birth, straining hospitals and costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, health officials say.
Doctors and health officials say they are overwhelmed by both the new arrivals and those immigrant mothers who already are in the state. Even Houston's feeling the pinch. An estimated 70 percent to 80 percent of the 10,587 births at Ben Taub General Hospital and Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital last year were to undocumented immigrants, administrators say...
Birthright citizenship, as it is known, has been in force since the approval of the Constitution's 14th Amendment in 1868. But several bills under consideration in Congress would abolish the longstanding federal policy. Sponsors include U.S. Reps. Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson, and Nathan Deal, R-Ga.Not exactly true. The 14th amendment has only been interpreted (for many decades) as granting birthright citizenship, but that was not the original intent of that clause.
As for the costs:
Starr County Memorial Hospital had $3.6 million in uncollected medical bills in 2005, up from $1.5 million in 2002. The total when fiscal 2006 ends on Sept. 30 is expected to hit $3.9 million, chief financial officer Rafael Olivarez said. Unpaid bills for the past five years will reach nearly $13 million, he said.
To make up for the shortfall, Starr County's hospital district is proposing a 25 percent tax hike.
Already, the U.S. government is pitching in, setting aside $1 billion in Medicaid funds to pay for emergency care received by undocumented migrants over the next four years.
But Olivarez said getting the reimbursements isn't easy. Federal officials "told us at a meeting they would pay us about 20 cents on the dollar," he said. "But it's better than nothing."
...[A spokeswoman for Harris County says:] "Using anecdotal information provided us by our staff, statistics from other public hospital systems and our patient demographics, we believe that approximately 70 to 80 percent of our obstetrics patients are undocumented."
...In all, 57,072 patients visited the district's hospitals, clinics and health centers last year, and nearly a fifth were undocumented, Rasp said. The cost of their treatment was $97.3 million, up from $55 million in 2002.