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The truth about medical repatriation

In the United States, the law requires that hospitals treat anyone in need of a medical emergency, regardless of immigration status. For example, if you are in sudden need of surgery, a hospital will treat you until you are stable.

However, after a patient is stable, the hospital must move them to a new facility in order to recover, be it home, a rehabilitation center, or nursing home. When undocumented immigrants come into the hospital to be treated, some hospitals resort to medical repatriation after stabilization.

What is medical repatriation?

This term has not always been connotated in a negative way. Medical repatriation was seen as a wholesome service to help individuals get back to their native country after suffering a significant injury. In recent years, however, studies have seen a link between undocumented immigrants and medical repatriation, which some view as a form of deportation.

The main reason this happens is because undocumented immigrants do not have United States health insurance, which can be very costly to hospitals. Instead of dealing with the extra medical costs, medical repatriation is an option some resort to. A Seton Hall University study found 800 cases of undocumented immigrant medical repatriation, although the number is likely higher, due to the number of hospitals and individuals who do not report the act.

Who is affected by this?

  • Illegal, undocumented, immigrants
  • Immigrants with a temporary visa
  • Legal residents without government assistance
  • Family members of aforementioned immigrants

After their deportation, many immigrants suffer negative consequences apart from their being deported. A move of such magnitude can be detrimental to the health and survival of the patients. Oftentimes, these individuals get more ill, and occasionally suffer death, due to inadequate care in the facilities.

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