Citizens from other countries travel here, but who absorbs the bill? This hospital in New Jersey is struggling with this very issue. BD
North Jersey hospitals are treating increasing numbers of foreigners who travel to the U.S. for medical care -- and leave without paying their bill.
Mindful that U.S. emergency rooms must take all comers, these medical tourists head from the airport straight to the hospital -- sometimes armed with CT scans and doctor's notes. As soon as they're well, they're back on the plane home.
These are cases like the 67-year-old woman from the Dominican Republic who arrived "near death" at Holy Name in 2005 and would spend the next 401 days as a patient there. Her bill would eventually reach $1.9 million. Medicaid would pay just $78,000, hospital officials said.
U.S. citizens face collection agencies and lawsuits if they fail to pay their medical bills. Yet hospitals often let medical tourist cases go because it's not cost-effective to chase after debt in other countries.
A very small portion of those costs is reimbursed through the state charity-care program. Medicaid can sometimes be tapped for these bills, but in most cases, hospitals must absorb the costs. They already have in California, where 84 hospitals have closed, overwhelmed by free health care to non-citizens.