Arizona legislator proposes hospitals check citizenship status

A legislator in Arizona has introduced a bill which would require hospital workers to ask patients with no insurance whether they are in this country legally.  Maricopa County Republican legislator Steve Smith introduced HB 2293, saying this would be a way to try to find out how much money is spent on undocumented immigrants.

“I get asked from constituents all the time,” Smith said.  “How much money does Arizona spend on free services for illegal aliens? And the answer is, we have no clue.”

Apart from asking an uninsured person if they are legal, the bill would ask the hospital worker to call the police if he or she suspects the patient is undocumented.

Today the National Coalition for Immigrant Women’s Rights (NCIWR) denounced the bill.  “Immigrant women already face far too many barriers to accessing health care. This bill would legalize harassment of immigrants and, in fact, of any woman who looks like she could be an immigrant,” said Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, an organization which is part of the NCIWR.

At a hearing, Pete Wertheim from the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association questioned whether a hospital is the best place to gather statistics on immigration. “Wouldn’t you think the more reliable statistics are when people are using day to day services and not the off-chance or periodic chance they enter a hospital?” said Wertheim.

This comes at the heels of a report by the Health and Human Services inspector general which found that Medicare paid $91 million for the care of undocumented immigrants.

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