Healthcare Digest 4/23: Medical Repatriation — Is it a Step Too Far?

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Medical Repatriation — uy. So.

Immigration is a tough debate in this country. Throw in undocumented workers and you’ve got the makings of a very loud dinner party to say the least. This story, which you can read more on here and here, is concerned with “medical repatriation” — the practice of hospitals sending undocumented workers back to their home countries, often without their permission.

“Hundreds of immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally have [been medically repatriated] through a little-known removal system run not by the federal government trying to enforce laws but by hospitals seeking to curb high costs. A recent report compiled by immigrant advocacy groups made a rare attempt to determine how many people are sent home, concluding that at least 600 immigrants were removed over a five-year period, though there were likely many more.”

Hospitals are required to treat any person who comes to them — whether they can pay or not. However, once that patient is stabilized, there’s nothing compelling the hospital to keep treating while continuing to rack up costs not likely to be recovered.

In the case of medical repatriation, though, it’s that extra step: these hospitals aren’t just discharging; they’re sending patients, often without their approval, back to their country of origin.

Your feelings on this action will align with your stance on immigration and undocumented workers. And hospitals do need to be vigilant about high costs. Detailed in the ModernHealthcare story above, regarding two undocumented Mexicans with health insurance: “So Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines took matters into its own hands: After consulting with the patients’ families, it quietly loaded the two comatose men onto a private jet that flew them back to Mexico, effectively deporting them without consulting any court or federal agency.” And one wonders about the cost-saving measures there are in private jets.

Tuesday headlines:

Get Your Wallets Out!: “A new study attributes a slowdown in U.S. healthcare spending to the recent recession and predicts more rapid growth as the economy strengthens.” Tongue depressors for ALL! [L.A. Times]

Verizon Data Breach Report: Healthcare CIOs Should Pay Attention: “The good news: While the annual Verizon-Secret Service 2013 Data Breach Investigations Report shows that hacktivist attacks and state-sponsored espionage are on the rise, overall, healthcare organizations aren’t really prime targets for those kinds of attacks.” [SecureHealthIT.com]

Fancy New Gizmo Alert!: “Samsung launched its Galaxy Note 8.0 this month. Healthcare Global takes a look at the device and discovers its merit as a medical tablet computer for healthcare professionals.” [HealthcareGlobal.com]

Healthcare Costs Add to Retirement Worries: “Many people nearing retirement don’t have a good feeling about whether they have saved enough to make it through retirement. Add to that worries about health care costs in retirement, and those concerns are off the chart. They should be.” [Democrat and Chronicle]

The IRS Finds Itself in the Middle of Healthcare Reform: “Are ski instructors seasonal workers that should get health care coverage by their employer under President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul? That is just one of many details the U.S. Internal Revenue Service has to work out by January 2014, with hordes of special interest groups lobbying the agency between now and then.” [Reuters]

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Posted in Medical Receivables, Patient Experience, Patient Financial Services .

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