Nine years ago, a drunken driver sent an illegal immigrant to Martin Memorial Medical Center, where he ran up more than $1 million in bills.
Today, Luis Jimenez, a former landscape worker who was left with the IQ of a 10-year-old, lives with his mother in a Guatemalan village. Meanwhile, doctors and lawyers in Florida are preparing for a three-week trial — set to begin Tuesday in Stuart — that will highlight holes in, and raise questions about U.S. immigration and health care policies.
Mr. Jimenez’ legal guardian, Montejo Gaspar Montejo of Indiantown, alleges that Martin Memorial administrators falsely imprisoned Mr. Jimenez when they put him a plane — against Mr. Montejo’s wishes — and returned him to Guatemala because they no longer wanted to pay for his care. The hospital, which had a court order allowing the transfer, denies the allegation, saying that treatment close to family was better for Mr. Jimenez.
Mark Krikorian, executive director for the Center for Immigration Studies, said the hospital was right. “We don’t have an uninsured crisis. We have an immigration crisis,” said Mr. Krikorian, noting that one-third of the 47 million uninsured in the U.S. are immigrants. “The long-term goal has to be reducing immigration of people who are going to end up in a hospital unable to pay. We need less legal immigration and better enforcement against illegal immigration.”
Susana Barciela, policy director for the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, said the current system forces hospitals to absorb the costs of treating illegal immigrants and to make decisions outside their purview. “What we need is an immigration system that works for this country, not against it,” she said. “You’ve got to have immigration reform to legalize the people who are here, so you don’t have this problem.”
What do you think? Was the hospital right to send Mr. Jimenez back? And does the U.S. Have an obligation to provide health care to undocumented immigrants who can’t afford or qualify for health care insurance? If we deny treatment, do we run the risk of spreading disease to Americans?