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Hospital alien reporting bill defeated

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"(The bill) was resoundingly defeated because people from both sides of the aisle - Republican and Democrat - they saw this bill was nothing quite frankly but a piece of garbage," Crowley said, speaking Monday at Elmhurst Hospital Medical Center.

The bill, which was defeated in the House of Representatives May 18 in an 88-331 vote with 14 no shows, would have required hospitals to gather and report information on patients' immigration status in order to be eligible for federal reimbursement for medical care. The bill was never presented in the U.S. Senate.

Backers of the bill said it would have limited taxpayers' outlay on medical care for illegal immigrants while helping the Department of Homeland Security track the movement of undocumented residents who could present a terrorist threat.

But detractors said it would do nothing but discourage immigrants already distrustful of public institutions from seeking medical care when they needed it.

"This (bill) would have put a wedge between the provider and the patient and eroded that trust that takes years to build and minutes to destroy," said Joseph Masci, director of medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine at Elmhurst Hospital Medical Center.

More than 60 percent of the patients serviced by Elmhurst are foreign-born, said Jasmin Moshirpur, a doctor at the hospital.

"This bill was a direct assault against this district," Crowley said. "Elmhurst is the most diverse community in the world. You name it, we got it."

Crowley conceded that taxpayers foot the bill for health care provided to illegal immigrants when they do not have medical insurance but said that it was in the interest of everyone to attack disease wherever it exists.

"Communicable diseases know no political affiliation. They know no citizenship affiliation," Crowley said.

Crowley said the bill should never have even come to the floor, calling it political payback for California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher's support of the seemingly unpopular Medicare reforms that passed Congress earlier this year.

In his legislative findings, Rohrabacher, a Republican who authored and presented the bill in January, said emergency medical services should only be provided to immigrants when their condition poses a risk to American citizens or is immediately life threatening.

Even then, Rohrabacher and four other representatives from New Jersey, Nebraska, North Carolina and Colorado said doctors should only stabilize patients so they could safely be taken back to their country of origin.

"(Immigrants) should not have to fear coming to a hospital in emergencies," said Nora Chaves, a health access coordinator for the Latin American Integration Center in Woodside.

Patricia Kuroki, 27, a health promoter for LAIC who lives in Woodside, said many of the workers and day laborers she counsels had heard about the bill and feared they would be deported if they visited the hospital.

Kuroki applauded the defeat of the bill and brushed off concerns about taxpayer money being spent on medical care for immigrants.

"I think immigrants pay taxes every time they purchase a Coke or anything else," she said in Spanish. "Besides they're here because American society needs them."

City Councilman Hiram Monserrate (D-Corona), who was not at the press conference, had actively campaigned against the legislation as well, introducing city legislation that condemned the Congressional proposal.

Reach reporter James DeWeese by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

Posted 7:05 pm, October 10, 2011
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