August 18, 2009

Treating the uninsured and illegal

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Paul Harasim of The Las Vegas Review-Journal spotlighted how a beleaguered University Medical Center is providing more than $20 million in repeated dialysis to a group of illegal immigrants.

Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak responded by saying foreign nationals should be sent home — but with their consent, unlike the practices of some Floridian and Texan hospitals.

The hospital is projecting a $70 million budget gap, compared with the $24 million annual cost of treating these patients, which is not reimbursed. 

Mexican officials say they want to bring their people home to take care of them — but their health may far much worse once they cross the border.

It is a classic immigration conundrum:

Is U.S. citizenship the only thing that would confer legitimacy to these people’s health treatments at Las Vegas’ only publicly supported hospital? 

What about a decade of hard work in the surrounding area?  Does that mean the kidneys of these 80 illegal immigrants should not be allowed to fail? 

Does the U.S. have an obligation to care for all the people who power its economy? 

Can doctors fulfill their Hippocratic Oath while denying care based on whether their hospital will be reimbursed?  Who should they save first?

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