SB 1405 targets immigration enforcement in hospitals

SB 1405 targets immigration enforcement in hospitals

CREATED Jun 30, 2011

Reporter: Jessica Chapin
Web Producer: Laura Rios

TUCSON (KGUN9- TV) - A new bill making its way through the State Senate may have hospitals dealing with more than just sick patients.  Senate Bill 1405 would require hospitals to report anyone who seeks treatment without insurance who cannot prove their legal status.  The bill states that emergency patient status must be reported after they are successfully treated.

The bill cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee Tuesday evening and Arizona hospitals are following its progress closely.

"We do not think hospitals and community hospitals should be in a position of enforcing immigration law," said Tucson Medical Center spokesperson Julia Strange. "We are a healing institution and we believe that immigration should be taken care of by the immigration officials."

Strange pointed to the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, which requires hospitals to treat any patient in need, regardless of status or their ability to pay.  She also said a patient may not have proof of citizenship on hand.

"Sometimes when you're sick and when you're in those critical situations, that's really not the first thing you remember," she said. "And we think it would create a burden on patients and create an unfunded mandate for hospitals."

Senator Steve Smith (R-Dist. 23) detailed his reasons for writing the bill during the hearing.  He cited millions of dollars in health services that go to illegal immigrants each year.

"Why are we affording a gold-plated health care system, uncompensated to the tune of 700 to 800 million dollars a year? I just don't understand," Smith said. "So that's the reason I wrote this bill and I sure hope it passes."

He pointed to the struggling budget and state Medicaid cuts, saying it was not fair to deny citizens health benefits under the current system.

Meanwhile, hospitals are focusing on unforeseen costs to hospital procedures, staff, and patient care.  The Arizona Hospital & Healthcare Association says it's strongly against the legislation. 

The bill is now on its way to the Senate floor.