Recent reports reveal that two comatose men in Iowa were deported when the hospital treating them discovered they were undocumented workers—and the practice is not technically illegal.
In this clip from last night’s Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert explains why “medical repatriation,” or more accurately “secret deportation,” may be so appealing. “Let’s end poverty by flying the poor to sub-Saharan Africa,” he said. “Or we could strap the elderly to rockets and shoot them into space. Or maybe we could send the unemployed somewhere they’ll never come back from. Because, in America, we don’t turn a blind eye to the needs of our fellow man. So we need to send them someplace where we can’t see them at all.”
Five years ago, the two men in question, Jacinto Cruz and Jose Rodriguez-Saldana, were in a car wreck that rendered them both unconscious. Though they did indeed have medical insurance from their jobs at a nearby pork plant, the Iowa Methodist Medical Center was doubtful that their coverage would cover the costs of the long-term care the patients would need.
While Cruz and Rodriguez-Saldana were still in an unconscious state, the hospital took it upon itself to deport them. When both patients awoke, they found themselves in a hospital in Mexico.
Today, each suffers from severe, permanent damage that they claim was caused by the lack of adequate care they received after their deportation.
Medical repatriation is happening with increasing frequency. It’s an unregulated and often undercover practice that allows hospitals to prevent unpaid medical bills by putting undocumented patients on chartered international flights home, often while they are still unconscious.
Hospitals are supposed to first obtain consent from family members first, but in the case of Cruz and Rodriguez-Saldana, their families claim consent was never given.
Dr. Mark Purtle, vice president of Medical Affairs for Iowa Health System, which includes Iowa Methodist Medical Center, spoke to the Associate Press about it. He explained, “It really is a Catch-22 for us,” he said. “This is the area that the federal government, the state, everybody, says ‘We’re not paying for the undocumented.’”
Should hospitals even have the legal right to make decisions about deportation? Let us know in the Comments.