MDs oppose cutting services to immigrants

March 11, 2009 5:52:39 PM PDT
Doctors spoke out Wednesday in Contra Costa County against a controversial plan to cut all but emergency health services for illegal immigrants. The plan is part of a larger effort to offset a $56 million budget deficit.

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Standing side by side, doctors from the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center appealed to county supervisors not to eliminate basic health care for illegal immigrants.

"Everything we will be doing in the next couple of years is bad public policy," Health Services Director Dr. William Walker said.

Walker reluctantly proposed cutting preventative care for 5,500 illegal immigrant adults. Pregnant women and children would still be served.

"If our undocumented patients are shut out of the county clinics we doctors at the hospitals will be faced with some terrible choices," Dr. Julie Freedman said.

Eliminating all but emergency services to undocumented adults would save the county about $6 million per year, but the doctors say eliminating most preventative care for illegal immigrants will end up costing the county more in the long run.

"A clinic visit is a $100 or so, any visit to the emergency room is going to be more than $500-$1,000," Dr. Francisco Dorado said.

"It's ridiculous for the county to provide preventative care for illegal migrants when we have citizens here who don't have their own health insurance or coverage," Costa Republican Party Chair Greg Poulos said. "All that's required to solve the 'emergency room crisis' is a judgment on the spot about what's truly an emergency and what is not."

Supervisors will hold public hearings on the proposed health care cuts next Tuesday.

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