Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Medical News: Arizona Mulls Checking Hospital Patients' Citizenship - in Public Health & Policy, Health Policy from MedPage Today

Arizona's state government is considering new legislation that would prevent hospitals from giving nonemergency treatment to suspected illegal immigrants.

Under Arizona Senate Bill 1405, nonemergency patients would have to show proof of citizenship or legal immigrant status before they could be admitted to hospitals in the state.

Patients without adequate documentation who need emergency care could still be treated, but hospital officials would be required to notify federal immigration officials after treatment was provided.

Hospitals would also have to notify the federal authorities about nonemergency patients denied care because of their lack of documentation.

The bill would stiffen what is already the nation's toughest -- and most controversial -- state law on illegal immigration. Last year, Arizona enacted legislation requiring police officers to check citizenship and immigration status of anyone they may suspect of being in the country illegally.

The Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association condemned the bill, calling it "an undue burden" on hospitals as well as patients.

In a statement provided to MedPage Today, the group said the legislation "would result in a delayed hospital admissions process for all patients, including U.S. citizens."

Moreover, the group said, "all hospital patients would be required to carry documentation acceptable for citizenship verification, placing an undue burden on patients and possibly jeopardizing their care."

It's unclear whether the bill is popular enough to win passage.

It had appeared on the state Senate Judiciary Committee agenda for Monday. But according to the website Politico, it was pulled at the last minute when the bill's backers -- including Senate President Russell Pearce, who was among its co-sponsors -- decided they weren't going to win a vote.

But, the website reported, supporters may seek to bring it before other committees.

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