Illegal Immigrants: Equal Medical Care Or Better Medical Care?
August 07, 2006, 05:00 AM
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As I mentioned in a previous column, I am hugely fat pregnant right now (by the time this is published I may have had the little critter…hopefully) so I have baby issues on the brain.

Parkland Memorial Hospital in Texas is a fairly famous institution and for a variety of reasons:

1.  John F. Kennedy died there in 1963

2.  Lee Harvey Oswald died there shortly after

3.  Jack Ruby died there a few years later….by coincidence

On the flip side, Parkland is also home to the second ( Hotlanta is #1) busiest maternity ward in the country with almost 16,000 new babies arriving each year.

What brought Parkland to my attention was an article in the Dallas Morning News for which a hospital mid-wife made the following observation about childbirth:

''Hispanic women are just wonderful; they birth wonderfully,' Tori Agustsdottir, the nurse-midwife, confided as she stepped out of the room. 'The perception of pain is very cultural. These women don't want epidurals. But American women are quick to take the medication.'' [Parkland will treat all moms-to-be, June 12, 2006 By Sherry Jacobson]

It's okay for this lady to make a derogatory and racial comment about American women, right?

While pain tolerance may vary by race, like everything else, any suggestion that minorities have either a higher or a lower pain tolerance than white people has always been treated as racist. If anyone said, the way (male, white) doctors said in the nineteenth century, that "primitive people" suffer less in childbirth, because they're, well, primitive, I don't think the Dallas Morning News would approve of that!

Jacobson's article went on to highlight some of the complexities that plague the daily operations and stretch the financial resources of Parkland.

'A recent patient survey indicated that 70 percent of the women who gave birth at Parkland in the first three months of 2006 were illegal immigrants.'

Crikey, that's 11,200 anchor babies born every year…just in Dallas.

According to the article, the hospital spent $70.7 million delivering 15,938 babies in 2004 but managed to end up with almost $8 million dollars in surplus funding.

Medicaid kicked in $34.5 million, Dallas County taxpayers kicked in $31.3 million and the feds tossed in another $9.5 million.

From the same article:

'The average patient in Parkland's maternity wards is 25 years old, married and giving birth to her second child.'

She is also an illegal immigrant.

By law, pregnant women cannot be denied medical care based on their immigration status or ability to pay…ok, fine.

But that doesn't mean they should receive better care than everyday, middle-class American citizens.

But at Parkland Hospital, they do.

Parkland Memorial Hospital has nine prenatal clinics…nine.

The Dallas Morning News article followed a Hispanic woman who was a patient at one of the clinics and pregnant with her third child—her previous two were also born at Parkland.

(And out in front of the clinic, a group of day laborers waited to be picked up for local jobs.)

Her first two deliveries were free and the Mexican native was grateful because it would have cost $200 to have them in Mexico.

This time, the hospital wants her to pay $10 per visit and $100 for the delivery but she was unsure if she could come up with the money.

Not that it matters, the hospital won't turn her away.

(I wonder why they even bother asking at this point…)

How long has this been going on? What are the long-term affects?

Well, another subject of the article was born at Parkland in 1986 shortly after her mother entered the U.S. illegally—now she is having her child there as well. 

(That's right…she's technically a U.S. citizen.)

These women receive free prenatal care including medication, nutrition, birthing classes and child care classes.

They also get freebies such as car seats, bottles, diapers and formula.

Most of these things are available to American citizens as well but only low-income applicants and even then, the red tape involved is almost insurmountable.

Because these women are illegal immigrants they do not have to provide any sort of legitimate identification—no proof of income.

An American citizen would have to provide a social security number which would reveal their annual income—an illegal immigrant need only claim to be poor and the hospital must take them at their word.

Ok, my husband is a pilot for the United States Navy (yes, he fought in Iraq) and while the health care is good, we Navy wives don't get any of these perks! 

Car seats? Diapers? Not so much…

So my question is this: Does our public medical care system treat illegal immigrants better than American citizens?

Yes it does!

As I mentioned, the care I have received is perfectly adequate but it's bare bones, meat and potato medical care—not top of line.

How about the fact their medical care is free…simply because they are illegal immigrants? Once again, there is no way to verify their income.

Parkland Hospital offers indigent care to Dallas County residents who earn less than $40,000 per year.

(They also have to prove that they did not refuse health coverage at their current job…yeah, the 'free' care is not so easy for Americans.)

The hospital has decided that fraud is out-of-control among this group and is sticking it to them.

There are about 140 patients who received roughly $4 million dollars for un-reimbursed medical care.  As it turns out, they did not qualify for free treatment because they resided outside of Dallas County.

So the hospital is going to sue them!

Yeah, outside of Dallas County but at least they still lived in Texas!

How stupid is this?

If you're an American citizen but do not reside in Dallas County, you're screwed.  If you're an illegal alien, you're safe as a kitten!

Dallas County Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield had this to say:

'This has been going on for far too long with no consequences,' he said. 'They think Parkland is free. We want to get that out of people's minds.'

He also said,

''It's just not right,' Mr. Mayfield said. 'These people are stealing from Dallas County taxpayers.'' [ Parkland pursues patients who lied to get free care, Dallas hospital aims to recoup millions from out-of-county residents, By Kevin Krause And Sherry Jacobson, Dallas Morning News ,July 24, 2006]

WHAT ABOUT THE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS, MR. MAYFIELD????

Well, the hospital is going to tackle that zillion-dollar problem as well…but it still refuses to go after the illegal immigrants.

Instead, Parkland Memorial Hospital plans to the send bills to the various countries from which the illegal immigrants came.

Of the $27 million dollars not reimbursed by the feds, 90% can be attributed to illegal immigrants from Mexico.

Mexican officials are already whining about discrimination, of course. [ Dallas Hospital Bills Mexico for Illegals Services July 10, 2006]

As if that isn't annoying enough, the illegal immigrant patients are actually complaining about hospital staff not speaking Spanish: [ Translate: Donde esta el hospital? By Sonia Moghe, AP 7/27/06]

In this AP story, the author speaks with a woman who is upset that she had to translate comments from the hospital staff into Spanish for her husband.

Apparently, their daughter was born sick and was dying.  The doctor was trying to explain the situation to the family and the mother was forced to translate for her husband who only spoke Spanish.

This was apparently a great injustice.

In an attempt to create a Spanish-speaking staff, Parkland Hospital is now providing incentives in the form of extra pay for applicants who speak Spanish.

Additionally, medical students at the University of Texas Southwestern for which Parkland Hospital is the training facility will now have a Spanish language requirement added to their already jammed-packed curriculum.

No other school in the country boasts such a ridiculous multi-semester requirement.

But remember, the maternity ward at Parkland Memorial Hospital had an $8 million dollar surplus in spite of the 70% illegal immigrant patient load

Maybe hospitals are better off treating illegal aliens than Americans—the feds are clearly willing to pick up the tab for the former…at least at Parkland.

This might explain why illegal immigrants get better medical care than Americans!

In the meantime, I have to end my column here…

I have to go buy a car seat.

Bryanna Bevens [email her] is a political consultant and former chief of staff for a member of the California State Assembly.