Under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor act,,,hospital emergency rooms like the one here at St. Marty's must treat and stabilize emergency room patients regardless of the patient's ability to pay, or their citizenship status. St. Mary's Performance Improvement Vice President Barbara Reynolds says the priority at the hospital is getting patients the treatment they need. "You come to the hospital when you need care. And so we work out the financial end after the care has been provided."
Reynolds says the patient with no insurance can make arrangements for a payment plan. IF that doesn't work the hospital can write the treatment off as charity, or try to receive compensation through state and federal funds.
The low cost HAWC Clinic on Wells Avenue in Reno has no emergency room. But its policy is to treat everyone who comes through the doors...payment is based on sliding scale. On the street its known as the place to go if you have no insurance or if you are undocumented. Executive Director Mike Rodolico says they received 2-million dollars in federal funding last year. The problem he says isn't with illegal immigrants its with everyone trying to afford health care.
" it's a myth out here that uninsured people don't pay their bills. That they are poor. That is a myth Uninsured is more and more middle class with disposable income and they do pay their bills. They just need a break a little time to pay it. And while treating undocumented patients may disturb some,,,,Dr. Antoine BouDoumit here at the clinic says there's good reason to treat all patients the same. Its part of his Hippocratic oath...but also there's a public health issue.
This year Medicade funds will reimburse some hospitals statewide to the tune of $79 million dollars. Which is slightly cover the $227 million dollars in uncompensated costs from last year. How much that is a result of illegal immigrants using the health care system? Because they are not asked at the emergency room door or other clinics, its impossible to say.