Hospital to ask immigration status
June 13, 2005

SANTA FE - Emergency room workers at a Santa Fe hospital will begin asking some patients for immigration documents to determine whether federal money can be used to pay for their care.

The change stems from an announcement by the Bush administration in May that it will provide $1 billion over four years nationwide to cover the costs of acute care of undocumented immigrants.
New Mexico qualifies for $5.1 million for the 2005 fiscal year based on the state's 53,620 apprehensions of undocumented immigrants between April 2003 and March 2004, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
But some national immigrant-advocacy groups are concerned that the program will hinder immigrants from getting medical attention.
"We believe this program will undermine efforts to ensure that all members of the community can seek the health care they need," said Tanya Broder, an attorney with the National Immigration Law Center in Oakland, Calif.
Rick Doxtator, chief financial officer at Santa Fe's St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, said the program represents "another source of support for this segment of the community and for the hospital."
Hospital staffers are being trained to determine eligibility by asking patients three questions, which they will start next month, he said.
A hospital must try to get payment from the patient or emergency Medicaid funds first before turning to the new federal funds.
Doxtator said St. Vincent does not share patient information with other agencies although, under the federal program, hospitals must photocopy patients' documents and keep them on file for federal auditors.