A New York Times story on this case was headlined Immigrants Facing Deportation by U.S. Hospitals August 3, 2008, although "Hospitals Facing Bankruptcy Due To Uninsured Illegals" might be a better way of putting it.
â€?I am Carol Plato. I am from Martin County, and I am Director of Corporate Business Services for Martin Memorial Medical Center. I just have a brief couple of stories to tell you about.
In 2001 we had a Guatemalan, an illegal patient, in our hospital. He was there from 2001 until 2003. He had over $1.5 million in healthcare services. We forcibly returned him to his home country of Guatemala at our own cost of $30,000.
You ask why am I telling you about a case that happened in 2003? Because today that case is not over; we have spent and are spending up to a quarter of a million dollars in legal fees because his family here in the United States is suing us because they think it was inappropriate for us to return this illegal patient to his home country.
Currently, as of today, I have a patient from Mexico who has been in my hospital for 760 days. He has severe brain damage, he has no family, no friends. His charges to date for almost 2 years is $1.5 million and we have contacted the Mexican Consulate four times; we have contacted Immigration, and nobody will help us return this patient to Mexico.
We are even willing to spend our own $30,000 to return this patient. We canâ€™t get anyone to help us with that. . . . One of the major problems that healthcare institutions have today that you need to be aware of is ongoing care. If somebody comes into our emergency rooms, we donâ€™t turn them away, but if somebody comes into our emergency room and they have renal failure, and they require dialysis — right now I have six patients, illegal, undocumented patients that we are seeing every 3 days for renal dialysis. For all of this that Iâ€™ve talked to you about, we have received no reimbursement. This obviously affects all of us in this room, our healthcare costs are severely affected by this. I also would like to end with pointing out that a large percentage of the babies born in our facility are from illegal parents.â€?
Chairman: â€?Thank you. I do have one quick question from Representative (?)â€?
Representative: â€?Sorry, I know there are a lot of speakers. Maâ€™am, when you know that they are illegal and come to your hospital, do you report them to the federal authorities to come get them?â€?
Carol Plato: â€?We have tried and we have been told on numerous occasions that they are only interested if a crime has been committed. And from what I understand it seems like they are not even interested then.â€?
Representative: â€?So the fact that they are illegal is not enough crime.â€?
Carol Plato: â€?Correctâ€? [Transcript]