Immigration status report not required, CMS says

Hospitals will not be required to report a patient’s immigration status to receive funding for uncompensated emergency care provided to undocumented immigrants, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has said in a letter to the American Hospital Association (AHA).

The Medicare Modernization Act included $250 million for each of the next four years to offset the costs of providing care to undocumented immigrants. But to qualify for that funding, CMS’ proposed implementation plan, posted in July 2004, would have required hospitals to obtain direct evidence of emergency patients’ immigration status.

Hospitals and patient advocates expressed concern that the requirement would deter patients from seeking needed emergency care.

But in an Oct. 1, 2004 letter to AHA, as reported in the on-line news service "AHA News Now," CMS administrator Mark McClellan said "providers will not be asked — and should not ask — about a patient’s citizenship status in order to receive payment under this program."