Houston Chronicle: Still no solution for illegal immigrants’ long-term care costs

"With an infant son, a common-law wife who's a U.S. citizen and a job at a Galveston bait shop, Francisco Martinez was working toward the American dream.

Then Martinez fell off the shop's roof and landed unceremoniously at the intersection of one of America's most vexing ethical, political and financial conundrums: the care of severely sick or injured illegal immigrants.

'It's a tragic, intractable problem,' said Antonio Zavaleta, a professor of anthropology at the University of Texas at Brownsville who specializes in health care and immigrant populations. 'There's no clear solution.'

Provide the long-term care and those institutions will rack up expenses that either bankrupt them or get passed on to U.S. citizens through higher charges. Don't provide the care and many of those patients won't survive, an ethical blight for a nation that prides itself on being humanitarian.

The UT Medical Branch at Galveston's solution, after saving Martinez's life, was to try to persuade the Mexican national, now paralyzed from the chest down, to return to his homeland for the special, long-term care he needs. Martinez's response, despite UTMB's offer to pay for the trip, was to tell hospital officials, 'if you don't want me here, just throw me outside.'" Read more ….

 

Houston Chronicle: UTMB offers patient a ticket to Mexico

"GALVESTON - Francisco Martinez wasn't happy about the free trip back to Mexico offered to him by a social worker at the University of Texas Medical Branch.

Martinez, 37, of Bacliff, broke his back Aug. 17 after falling off a ladder while working on the roof of a bait shop where he was employed.

UTMB doctors saved his life, but he is paralyzed from the chest down, can barely move his hands and needs special care.

The problem for UTMB is that Martinez is undocumented and has no hope of qualifying for workman's compensation or Medicaid. UTMB is forced to bear the expense of Martinez's care until another place can be found for him to go.

Experts say the problems confronting Martinez and UTMB raise ethical and social issues about the rights of undocumented residents and the costs when some are inevitably injured and require expensive long-term treatment.

Martinez said the social worker badgered him about signing documents that would allow the hospital to purchase him a ticket for Mexico. Martinez doesn't want to leave his common-law wife, who is a U.S. citizen, and their 6-month-old son. He refused to sign.

'If you don't want me here, just throw me outside,' Martinez told the social worker.

UTMB declined to comment on Martinez."  Read more …