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Appeals Court Considers Emergency Healthcare For Undocumented Immigrants

Naoki Takano/ Flickr

A longstanding dispute over emergency medical care for undocumented immigrants is back in the courts. The First District Court of Appeal heard oral arguments Tuesday.

Hospitals are required to treat the people who come through their doors. But a patient’s immigration status can complicate who picks up the tab. In 2010, the state-run Agency for Health Care Administration changed payment rules to cut down on Medicaid coverage of emergency care. The change means hospitals aren’t fully reimbursed when they treat undocumented immigrants. A coalition of two dozen hospitals argue the agency is overstepping its bounds. Last year a judge rejected the argument, but now the hospitals are appealing. Joanne Erde is their attorney.

“If AHCA doesn’t like the fact that the determination of whether there is an emergency medical condition and its duration is based upon documentation provided by the hospitals, then it needs to go to the Legislature and have them change the statute and have DCF change its rules,” she said.

Some public health experts want to expand emergency medical care for immigrants, not cut it. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, in some states more than 80% of emergency Medicaid funds go toward undocumented immigrants giving birth to American citizens.

As a Tallahassee native, Kate Payne grew up listening to WFSU. She loves being part of a station that had such an impact on her. Kate is a graduate of the Florida State University College of Motion Picture Arts. With a background in documentary and narrative filmmaking, Kate has a broad range of multimedia experience. When she’s not working, you can find her rock climbing, cooking or hanging out with her cat.