Hospitals seeking to curb costs have deported hundreds of immigrant patients who were in the U.S. illegally without consulting a court or federal agency, the Associated Press reports.
At least 600 immigrants were removed over a five-year period through a little-known process called "medical repatriation," which is not run by the federal government, according to a recent report by immigrant advocacy groups. The number is probably much higher, advocates say, because many cases go unreported, the AP writes.
The process allows hospitals to use their discretion to send patients, many of whom are still unconscious, to medical facilities in their countries of origin, the AP reports.
U.S. laws say hospitals must provide all patients emergency treatment and stabilization regardless of their citizenship status or ability to pay. Once the patient is stabilized, there is no further requirement and hospitals often won't get reimbursed for costly long-term care of uninsured patients.
The American Medical Association's Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs issued a 2009 directive to doctors, advising them not to "allow hospital administrators to use their significant power and the current lack of regulations" to send patients to other countries, the AP reports.
Though doctors can't expect hospitals to provide costly, uncompensated care to patients indefinitely, "neither should physicians allow hospitals to arbitrarily determine the fate of an uninsured noncitizen immigrant patient," the council said.
Via the Associated Press