Experts Raise Concern Over Cutting Nonemergency Health Services for Undocumented Immigrants
Several officials and experts have raised concern over some California counties' decision to cut certain nonemergency health services to undocumented immigrants, saying the move only shifts costs to emergency departments, the Los Angeles Times reports. Counties have been taking such action amid the current recession as a means to reduce their budgets.
In February, Sacramento County voted to prohibit undocumented immigrants from receiving care at county clinics to save an estimated $2.4 million. Contra Costa County last month cut services for undocumented adults, seeking to save an estimated $6 million. The move does not affect services for undocumented children and pregnant women. Yolo County will vote on a similar measure next month, which officials expect to affect 1,200 undocumented immigrants and reduce spending by $1.2 million.
Robert Pestronk, executive director of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, said, "This is a balloon that just expands. If you squeeze it in one place, it's just going to expand somewhere else." David Hayes-Bautista, professor of medicine and director of the University of California-Los Angeles' Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture, said cutting services is not a long-term solution for managing county budgets.
Reshma Shamasunder, director of the California Immigrant Policy Center, added that denying health care for a particular segment of the population puts others at risk for communicable diseases that have been left untreated and causes ED overcrowding. Soren Tjernell of the Community Clinic Consortium, which represents clinics in Contra Costa and Solano counties, said, "Except by helping us balance the budget, it doesn't help us, it doesn't help our citizens, it doesn't help our undocumented," adding, "But if we don't have the money, we just can't afford it" (Gorman, Los Angeles Times, 4/27).