Friday, August 11, 2006

Help with unreimbursed care, not immigration, say experts

NurseRecapping the Congressional hearing held in Brentwood yesterday, the Nashville City Paper reports that Dr. Darin P. Gordon, the director of the Bureau of TennCare, testified that an estimated 0.2% of the TennCare budget is spent on underground internationals. The Tennessean reports that Gordon "rejected the idea that illegal immigrants are sneaking onto the TennCare rolls for regular medical care, saying the program has always required various types of documentation for enrollment."

Both the City Paper and the Tennessean recounted the testimony of Gary R. Perrizo, the director of patient accounting at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. According to the Tennessean, Perrizo attributed about 5.1% of VUMC's total unreimbursed health care expenditures to illegitimized expatriates. The City Paper reported on Perrizo's testimony that "the hospital admitted 174 undocumented patients between Jan. 1 and Aug. 6, 2006, which is a 17 percent increase versus the same period in 2005. In addition, Perrizo testified that between Jan. 1 and March 31, 2006, 504 possible illegal immigrants received emergency care but were not admitted to VUMC."

"'We are morally and legally obligated to provide care for anyone who is in urgent need,' Perrizo said. But that moral commitment and legal requirement to care for those in need has come to carry a significant price tag for hospitals and doctors alike.'"

The Tennessean reported that "Perrizo, Duncan and another representative of Tennessee hospitals all asked for the return of federal aid known as disproportionate share payments. Tennessee is one of only two states that don't receive the payments, which help compensate for unreimbursed charity care, they said."

Photo: Gary R. Parrizo

update 8/21/06: The Tennessean published this editorial denouncing legislators' finger-pointing at illegal immigrants and their failure to propose broader health care solutions. The editorial tracks the sentiment of this 8/16/06 letter to the editor from Nashville ER emergency physician Michael Hasty.

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