Arizona border hospital out $26M for migrant care hopeful for payment source as Title 42 end nears

May 3, 2023, 4:25 AM

(KTAR News Photo/Balin Overstolz-McNair)...

(KTAR News Photo/Balin Overstolz-McNair)

(KTAR News Photo/Balin Overstolz-McNair)

PHOENIX — An Arizona hospital near the U.S.-Mexico border out millions for providing medical care to migrants is hopeful it will soon secure a source to pay for the treatments.

Yuma Regional Medical Center, the only hospital in a 180-mile radius of the border city, has racked up more than $26 million in medical bills in the past year for patients that need care but cannot provide payment.

Machele Headington, vice president of marketing and support services, said conversations with local, statewide and national leaders have been productive.

“I think that they’ll do what they can to help us get the resources,” Headington said. “We just have to start identifying some funding to be able to do that because it just isn’t a long-term sustainable model to keep doing this for a long period of time.”

The hospital’s search for funding comes at a time where operations could ramp up even more.

Title 42, the COVID-era border policy that limits asylum-seekers’ entry to the country, ends May 11.

A surge of migrants into the country is expected to follow, a situation Headington says the hospital will only be able to sufficiently prepare for as it happens.

“We’re here to keep take care of patients,” Headington said. “This isn’t a political issue for us. It really is about how do we continue to make sure we’re here for our community and here for the people who need us who might be visiting Yuma or coming across the border.

“We just need to be here and be ready to do that.”

Summer months could also add strain for the hospital.

Migrants making the trek to the country on high-temperature days will end up at the facility for heat-related treatment.

“I think it’s just exasperated now because there’s a larger number of people coming across and people don’t understand the desert,” Headington said.

Even so, the top priority for the hospital is getting payment for the services it is providing for migrants.

“What business could offer services for a long period of time without ever getting any reimbursement or being paid to do those services?” Headington said. “It’s just hard to do.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Taylor Tasler contributed to this report.

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Arizona border hospital out $26M for migrant care hopeful for payment source as Title 42 end nears