Although rarely talked about, There is an “emergency Medicaid” that reimburses a hospital for emergency care to an immigrant who is in the country illegally, reports Sandhya Somashekhar of The Washington Post. The program defines “emergency” a “sudden-onset conditions that threaten life or could cause serious impairment.” It reimburses hospitals for emergency and maternity care given to people who, based on their income and other factors, would be eligible for regular Medicaid if they were legal citizens.
So, if an undocumented immigrant meets Kentucky’s requirements for Medicaid, which will soon be expanded to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, he or she qualifies for the emergency program.
In 2011 alone, the federal government paid out $1.3 billion under the program, reports Somashekhar. A large percentage of those illegal immigrants receiving care are pregnant women, and so the care that’s being provided is labor and delivery for children that will become U.S. citizens. “From the perspective of our health-care system, when people show up and they’re sick, the health-care system is obligated to take care of them,” Diane Rowland, executive vice president for the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, told Somashekhar.