Welcome to the Emergency Room. Papers Please.

From Time (Swampland blog)

Arizona, which passed a controversial immigration bill last year, is again debating measures to discourage undocumented immigrants from living in the state.

Another (bill) would take the immigration battle all the way into the emergency room. If passed, the measure would require hospital personnel to verify immigration status of each person before they are admitted. If a person could not prove he or she was in the country legally, the hospital would be required to report that to federal immigration officials. If the person needed emergency care, the hospital would still be required to provide it under the rules spelled out in the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, which makes it illegal to deny care to anyone on the basis of his or her ability to pay.

According to the Arizona Republic, this last proposal has the state’s health care workforce worried. Doctors, nurses and hospital administrators could be on the hook legally if they did not check immigration status and report those who appeared to be undocumented. Some are also concerned that Medicaid funding – partially paid by the state – could be withheld from providers and facilities that don’t check immigration status and report offenders. This “compliance burden” could tax already swamped medical workers. There are also concerns about the threat to public health if illegal immigrants with communicable diseases stay away from emergency rooms for fear of being deported.

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