Advocates for tighter immigration restrictions frequently rail against illegal immigrants for availing themselves of social services like education and publicly supported health care, arguing that they are overburdening taxpayers and utilizing scarce resources. They've succeeded in maintaining a ban on government health coverage for illegal immigrants, for instance, and have tried to implement more draconian measures on the state level.
But such measures haven't solved the political and ethical dilemmas of providing health care for illegal immigrants, which this New York Times story brings into focus. The Times piece explains how a public charity hospital in Georgia closed its outpatient dialysis clinic, only to displace some 60 uninsured illegal immigrants who need the treatment to survive. The charity hospital brokered a deal to cover about half the patients but only after a handful had died after being repatriated to Mexico. The Times explains:
Thirty-eight end-stage renal patients, most of them illegal immigrants, would receive the dialysis they need to stay alive at no cost under a rough agreement brokered Tuesday among local dialysis providers and Atlanta’s safety-net hospital, Grady Memorial... Grady, which receives direct appropriations from Fulton and DeKalb Counties, ultimately agreed on Tuesday to help pay for continuing dialysis for most of the immigrants. Others would be distributed among local dialysis providers as charity cases...
Five of the 13 patients who left for Mexico with assistance from Grady or the Mexican government have died, according to Matt Gove, a Grady senior vice president. Most died while still receiving dialysis, although not always as regularly as recommended... One patient, Fidelia Perez Garcia, 32, apparently succumbed in April to complications from renal failure after running out of Grady-sponsored treatments in Mexico.
However you slice it, there isn't an easy answer. Even if Grady hospital pulled all support for such dialysis patients, they would still end up in emergency rooms where they would be required by law to receive treatment. And if they couldn't pay, taxpayers would still end up footing part of the bill, as hospitals pass on such costs to state governments.