Illegal immigration is costing American hospitals billions of dollars in unpaid medical bills
By Lance D Johnson // Apr 26, 2024

One of the most overlooked financial burdens on the American medical system is the unpaid medical bills coming directly from illegal immigrants. Illegal border crossings surpassed 3.2 million in 2023 -- a record high.

According to Customs and Border Protection data, apprehensions of illegal aliens have nearly tripled since 2019. These illegal aliens are people who oftentimes have serious medical needs, but have little to no financial resources. Illegal immigration burdens state Medicaid programs and uses up charities at an unsustainable pace.

Illegal immigration adds billions of dollars in unpaid medical bills to a medical system that’s already falling apart

Every year, tens of thousands of illegal immigrants flood U.S. hospitals, looking for treatment for infectious diseases, chronic diseases and disabilities. In fact, American hospitals as a whole are losing multiple billions of dollars annually because of unpaid medical bills coming directly from illegal immigrants. These unpaid medical bills drive up the overall cost of healthcare – a cost that ultimately gets passed on to Americans, who can barely afford healthcare as it is.

According to a new report from the House Committee on Homeland Security, the United States spends $451 billion annually due to the invasion at the U.S. border. The report finds that a significant portion of these annual costs are due to unpaid healthcare for illegal immigrants.

Most illegal immigrants lack medical insurance and depend on hospital discounts, private charities and government welfare programs. State Medicaid programs are absorbing unanticipated costs that only drive up the cost of health insurance premiums and deductibles for Americans. For example, Denver Health served approximately 8,000 illegal immigrants in 2023. These illegals made roughly 20,000 visits to the city’s health system that year. If the illegals qualify for Medicaid, they are more prone to use the system more often for minor issues. This makes it harder for Americans to get appointments and contributes to longer wait times at hospitals. The American medical system and the welfare programs that accompany it were not designed to absorb the influx of people and the medical problems that they bring.

Sanctuary cities absorb tens of thousands of medical visits from illegals, leading to longer wait times and higher costs for Americans

The Congressional report found that total Medicaid costs for “emergency services for undocumented aliens” in fiscal year 2021 exceeded $7 billion.

Denver Health public information officer Dane Roper said the total bill for uncompensated healthcare costs in 2023 was $140 million. Uncompensated healthcare costs have rapidly increased in recent years across Denver’s healthcare system. In 2020, uncompensated costs totaled $60 million. Two years later, the figure doubled, rising to $120 million.

“The perspective we’ve been trying to emphasize all along is that providing healthcare services for an influx of new immigrants who are unable to pay for their care is adding additional strain to an already significant uncompensated care burden,” Mr. Roper said. It’s an issue that needs to be urgently addressed. He advocates for local, state and federal governments to get involved and address the needs of new illegal immigrant populations, before it is financially untenable to respond to anyone’s medical needs, whether they are legal citizens or not.

In California, lawmakers recently worsened the problem by approving free healthcare for all illegal immigrants within the state. The new law is projected to cost taxpayers up to $6 billion per year. Many illegal immigrants have several untreated health issues.

According to Dr. Robert Trenschel, CEO of the Yuma Regional Medical Center, which is situated on the Arizona-Mexico border, illegal immigrants often cost up to three times more than the average American to treat. “Some [illegal] migrants come with minor ailments, but many of them come in with significant disease,” Dr. Trenschel said during a congressional hearing last year.

“We’ve had migrant patients on dialysis, cardiac catheterization, and in need of heart surgery. Many are very sick,” he said. Some illegals spend up to 60 days or more in the ICU before they can be safely discharged. If the issue of illegal immigration is not solved at the source, then its humanitarian impacts will continue to inhibit access to healthcare and drive up the cost of medical care for Americans.

Sources include: [PDF]

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