NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 28, 2006

It's difficult to pinpoint growth in the costs of caring for Colorado's illegal immigrant population, but one measure is emergency Medicaid, which has gone up 57 percent in the past six years, says the Rocky Mountain News.

This federally mandated program pays for emergency room care for anyone who would qualify for Medicaid based on income but can't prove citizenship or five years of legal residency.

  • Medicaid takes care of the very poor, children born into poverty and the disabled, with the state and federal government splitting expenses 50-50.
  • Emergency Medicaid's cost in Colorado rose from $39.4 million in 2001-2002 to a projected $61.9 million this fiscal year; nine of the top 10 treatments are for pregnant women.
  • But emergency Medicaid makes up less than 2 percent of the Medicaid budget.
  • Medicaid's caseload, meanwhile, has risen 60 percent in the same period.
  • At the same time, hospitals' costs for charity care and unpaid debt have grown dramatically, and low- cost clinics that care for the uninsured are strained.

Many of Colorado's illegal immigrants are uninsured. The RAND Corp. in 2005 estimated that about 70 percent of U.S. undocumented immigrant adults have no health insurance.

When they get sick, they rely on free or low-cost care in clinics and charity care at hospitals.

That leads to a common complaint - that hospital emergency rooms are overrun with illegal immigrants, adding to long wait times for citizens, says the News.

Source: Rachel Brand and Rosa Ramirez, "Hospital, Medicare numbers tell tale; Lamm says influx is setback for goal of insuring citizens," Rocky Mountain News, August 28, 2006


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