(Source: CBS 5 News) State Rep. Carl Seel is co-sponsor of a bill that would require hospitals to ask for proof of legal status if they can't pay their bills, unless they are from Canada.
(Source: CBS 5 News) Pete Wertheim with the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association, said the mandate is impossible to handle with current budgets and staffing.
PHOENIX (CBS5) -
Could hospital staff soon be asking for your papers? Several lawmakers are proposing a bill that would require patients to show proof of legal status. But not everyone thinks immigration reform belongs in the hospital.
"We're a benevolent nation, we would not deny treatment," said Rep. Carl Seel, R-Phoenix.
Seel is a co-sponsor of House bill 2293 and said after treatment, if you can't pay your bill, hospital staff would then ask to see your papers. If you don't have them, the police would be called, unless you're from Canada.
"There's a lot of good relationships we have with Canada, legally, there's a lot of reciprocity," Seel said.'' If you have Canadian papers, you're deemed legal in the United States."
That's not exactly true, but after speaking with immigration attorneys, we found out Canada is among several countries that participate in a visa waiver program. We don't have that agreement with Mexico.
"The taxpayer or the people who pay insurance premiums now get indirect costs by the effects of illegal immigrants in hospital systems," Seel said.
"The responsibility of immigration reform should not be pushed onto a private industry, one that its job is not to enforce immigration law but rather provide care," said Pete Wertheim with the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association. He said with more than 3 million people getting treated at Arizona hospitals each year, this mandate is impossible to handle with current budgets and staffing.
"All these employees would have to be trained on immigration law and have standards put into place to protect themselves from civil liability," Wertheim said. He worries this could also create a chilling effect; if an undocumented immigrant has an infectious disease like tuberculosis, they may not seek care for fear of being turned over to officials.
"There really is no difference between an individual who is uninsured versus whether they're a citizen or not, the point being is, they're not getting paid," Wertheim said.
Even though the hospital bill wouldn't get paid, at least we'd know who's not paying it; Seel said a portion of the bill requires hospital staff to turn over numbers at the end of the year of how many undocumented immigrants were treated, so the state has a better idea of how much it's truly costing us.
Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.
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