A bill pending in the Ohio Legislature would ban the use of tax revenue for routine medical care of undocumented immigrants, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Under the bill, health care clinics receiving public funding would be required to check the immigration status of any patient older than age 14 and decline to provide care to those who are undocumented. Clinics could use private funding to care for undocumented immigrants.
According to the Dispatch, it is not known how much Ohio hospitals, taxpayers and people with health insurance coverage currently spend on medical care for undocumented immigrant care.
"The bill could leave [undocumented immigrants] with virtually a single avenue to health care: the emergency room," where under federal law patients must be treated regardless of immigration status, the Dispatch reports. According to the Dispatch, an "unintended consequence" could be that hospitals and taxpayers end up spending more to treat conditions -- such as high blood pressure, diabetes or flu -- that usually are easily controlled and preventable.
State Rep. Courtney Combs (R) said he is in part sponsoring a bill that would restrict undocumented immigration to bring attention to how the issue affects costs and other issues. He said, "We need some discussion. It's the elephant in the room."
Cregg Ashcraft -- director of Clinica Latina, a volunteer clinic that serves Hispanic patients and is funded by Ohio State University, and an associate professor of clinical medicine at the university -- said, "It is a horrible thing to be without insurance no matter where you're from. And it's devastating if you're not here with the blessing of Uncle Sam." He added, "Health care is a basic human right. That's not the way to stop the immigration problem" (Czekalinski/Riepenhoff, Columbus Dispatch, 9/9).