Arizona legislators who want to require hospitals to confirm citizenship status of patients without proof of insurance (SB 1405) might want to consider results from the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, which required most Medicaid applicants to furnish proof of citizenship at the time of application or renewal. One analysis summarized in a 2008 report found that six states spent more than $8.3 million in federal funds to find eight undocumented immigrants erroneously using Medicaid services. Other studies reported that not only did the requirement fail to root out large numbers of illegal immigrants, but it also resulted in increased administrative burden and costs, as well as delayed or denied coverage for eligible individuals.
It is ironic that legislators who portray themselves as conservatives want to add to the burden of government regulation and oversight that decrease hospital efficiency and quality of care – all in order to find and dispatch illegal immigrants. What we ought to be focusing on is comprehensive federal immigration reform so legislators can redirect their attention from ill-conceived legislation like SB 1405 to more positive investments in the future of our state.