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Capitol Health Call
November 10, 2004

Hospitals and Immigrant Status

JAMA. 2004;292(18):2205. doi:10.1001/jama.292.18.2205-c

Federal officials have withdrawn a controversial plan to have hospitals ask emergency department patients about their immigration status.

The proposal was part of last year’s Medicare prescription drug law that will provide $1 billion over 4 years to hospitals to help cover emergency department costs for treating uninsured illegal immigrants.

Medicare officials said hospitals needed to ask about a patient’s residency status to determine if the federal money was being spent appropriately for treating an undocumented alien. But public health and immigrant advocates worried that asking someone their immigration status would make an undocumented person more likely to avoid emergency departments and have their medical condition get worse or spread disease to others.