Free Clinic Says Adios to Undocumented Patients

Jeremy Aldrich -- June 20th, 2008

At its May board meeting, the Harrisonburg Rockingham Free Clinic decided to cut off services to patients without legal status (confirmed through either a Social Security number or other documentation of legal residency), effective July 1. About 100 current patients, representing about 10% of the clinic’s case load, will be effected affected by the change.

Executive Director Rich Sider says that the board decided to limit participation in the free clinic based on feedback from some volunteers and other medical providers who were concerned about the amount of resources going to people who aren’t here legally. Sider also says that drug companies which donate pharmaceuticals require a Social Security number from recipients. Sider says they do not have resources to determine whether documents presented are valid or not, but that new patients without documentation will not receive services after their initial eligibility screening.

The clinic notified current patients via a letter which also suggested other avenues for health care, none of which are free, such as the new Community Health Center, RMH outpatient services, and Cooks Creek Clinic which charges a flat fee for services.

Although there is not currently a waiting list for services, Sider says that the change will allow the clinic to have more capacity and take on different patients.

Sider says, “The board felt the risks of continuing to serve this population were significant given the feedback we’ve received.” He added that whichever direction they had decided, some volunteers and staff would have been unhappy, but he does not anticipate any reduction in the level of donations from the community to the clinic.

118 Responses to “Free Clinic Says Adios to Undocumented Patients”

  1. PaulC1958 says:

    I’m live in Colorado, but this blog doesn’t limit comments only to those who live in Virginia. I’m a proud, life-long, liberal Democrat, but that fact doesn’t make me a fool. I believe strongly in what some people call the “commons” those public and private entities that make civil life possible. Things like schools, hospitals, governments, courts, police, churches, and charities just to name a few. Some are public, paid for through taxes, and some are private, paid for through donations. All, however, are limited by resources made available to them. In my view it is hard to reconcile compassionate treatment of individuals in need with the very real constraints imposed by the number of people deserving of compassion and the very real limited resources available to be compassionate. No matter how much we would like it to be otherwise, we must make choices. Just as I put the needs of my family before those of my neighbors, I choose to put the needs of my fellow citizens before those of illegal aliens and legal immigrants. To do otherwise, it seems to me, is to devalue citizenship. You are free to make a different choice.

  2. Dave Briggman says:

    Yes, Deb. In fact I did enjoy state-subsidized tuition while at BRCC…but when the bond issues that came out more than a couple of years ago hat were for both parks and colleges, I specifically asked Dr. Perkins to RAISE BRCC tuition for us, at the same time telling people to VOTE AGAINST the bond issues.

    My oldest is at Cub Run, however, the level of my wife and my involvement with my children in their education will allow my child to succeed notwithstanding that he’s in a government school.

    Miller (I find it easier to sort us out using our last names), government schools were created to maintain a dumb-down worker class.

    John Taylor Gatto, former NY State Teacher of the Year, talks about the origin of government eduction here:

  3. Jeremy Aldrich says:

    Draegn, can you find a source within the medical or hospital administration community who says that undocumented immigrants have caused even one hospital closing by overwhelming services?

    Everything I am finding links back to a woman with a doctorate in midieval studies and is also a rabid anti-immigrant, named Madeleine Cosman. Here’s her most widely quoted “study”, which as I understand it was published by an ultra-right wing advocacy group.

    Most of what I’m seeing from actual medical professionals indicates that hospital closings have happened a lot in poor neighborhoods over decades, and many in California especially are attributed to the high costs of retrofitting buildings (especially small hospitals) to meet required building codes related to earthquakes.

    So, if you can help me find a bona fide medical professional who blames undocumented immigrants for hospital closings, let me know.

  4. David Miller says:

    Briggman (I agree, its easier), you quote an article from a HomeSchooling website whose goals include vouchers and eliminating Public education. Invalid biased perspective denied. I read it, it had some interesting opinions but that’s all. Opinions don’t bother me as much as you using my taxpayer dollars to educate yourself and your children then telling me I’m a communist for believing that all human beings deserve equal and adequate health insurance. You ignored all of my points about the greater good of public education and public health. Those are the only things that I see as valid arguing points (since we seem to have a different set of morals and values when it comes to our fellow man, we must then use practical and self-centered arguments).

  5. eso says:

    Even if Dave’s children went to private schools, I can imagine a situation which it would be natural for him to justify the public schools. He investigated the public schools and found them so broken he has to spend his money to send them to private schools. That’s what has happened to some private and home schoolers. And they have every right to complain.

    The woman who cuts my hair was talking to another customer and said only 2 or 3 students in her kid’s early ed classes spoke English. IF that’s the case, I would consider it neglectful and being a poor parent sending your child to that school.

  6. Emmy says:

    Well then call me neglectful Eso. When my oldest was in Kindergarten there were seven children in his class who spoke no English. By the end of the year they could carry on a very nice conversation with me. My son actually got more time with his teacher because of this. I don’t find my sons school to be lacking at all. In fact I just wrote a letter to the principal and superintendent about the teacher my youngest had last year and what an blessing she is. I wouldn’t change where my kids go to school if I had the option (which I do).

  7. David Miller says:


    The woman who cuts my hair was talking to another customer and said only 2 or 3 students in her kid’s early ed classes spoke English. IF that’s the case, I would consider it neglectful and being a poor parent sending your child to that school.”

    Why? Why?

  8. Brooke says:

    I’m with Emmy on this one. I wouldn’t consider this a bad thing, or consider it neglectful to keep my kids in school where there are a high concentration of children who are beginning to learn English. I would consider it a blessing and an opportunity for my children to be exposed to cultural diversity, but also to do what they could to help their fellow students learn English (and probably pick up a little Spanish in the process) as well as helping them in any way they could, to get more acclimated to life here in the States.In fact, if they ever do implement the Immersion classes, my kids will be first in line!

  9. Brooke says:

    Link 1 – Doesn’t mention the hospital closing or even struggling to stay open.
    Link 2 – Doesn’t mention the hospital, or any hospital, closing because of this.
    Link 3 – Is from an anti-immigrant organization, so far from credible as a source, but again, while it mentions budget and staff cutbacks, doesn’t mention a hospital, any hospital, closing because of this. In fact, this is about a clinic, not a hospital
    Link 4 – Not even going to go there after watching the last video, as it’s a site dedicated to anti-immigration, so far from a credible, unbiased source

    You STILL have not provided one single, solitary link or source that backs up your previous claims about hospitals being forced to close, let alone one from a credible, unbiased source.

    Free tip of the day: Cutting and pasting links does not evidence or a logical argument make.

  10. JGFitzgerald says:

    Ask some people for a yes-or-no answer and their response is “fourteen.” Ask them for a number and they tell you they already know so they don’t have to tell you.

    But … like … here’s a link.


  11. Jeremy Aldrich says:

    Okey dokey…let me repeat my question: “can you find a source within the medical or hospital administration community who says that undocumented immigrants have caused even one hospital closing by overwhelming services?”
    I saw nothing in any of those about hospitals closing or overwhelming services. I saw a doctor saying they couldn’t get reimbursed because the immigrants were not eligible for any medical aid, a hospital administrator complaining that her hospital got sued for forcibly deporting a poor man who had been crippled by an uninsured (American) drunk driver, and another fired hospital administrator who didn’t think his role as caring for indigents extended to undocumented immigrants, which was his job. The fourth link had no original or cited information on the topic and has nothing to do with this conversation.
    Let’s look at these again:

    1. People badly burned in natural disaster…if they had been anyone other than “illegals” the call would have been to HELP them pay their bills rather than blame them for not having money to get acute care. Notice the doctor is more upset at the system than the immigrants, and rightly so in my opinion.

    2. Someone hit by an uninsured drunk driver is literally sent off to die by a private, profitable hospital that pays its executives $4 million a year. Again, if this had been a white guy it would have been the cause for a fundraiser, not a deportation.

    3. Indigent services in Sacramento are for residents of Sacramento who can’t pay their bills. The guy did a crappy job heading up that section, was moved to another position he said was “too difficult”, got bad performance reviews and was fired. Umm…this is a hero for the anti-immigrant forces?

    I like the way the NYTimes put it about the guy in Florida being caught in the collision of two deeply flawed American systems: health care and immigration. How true.

    I’m still waiting for a source that connects hospital closings and undocumented immigrants, Draegn.

  12. Dave Briggman says:

    Jeremy, they’re not “undocumented”…they are ILLEGAL. I’m sure many of them have their consulate-issued IDs and most probably have their birth certificates from their homeland.

  13. Jeremy Aldrich says:

    Thanks Dave, got it. Hey, how’s your campaign on behalf of illegal fathers going?

  14. Draegn88 says:

    Brooke, I had a lengthly response for you, however, you are not worth it.

    Jeremy, somehow I imagine that you would not care for Lou Dobbs and CNN. However, I did come across this interesting page.

    The loco-est part of this mess is that both Cosman and her parakeet Dobbs have their figures relatively right: According to the California Hospital Association, 82 hospitals in the Golden State folded from 1996 to 2006. But in an August interview with New England Journal of Medicine contributing editor Susan Okie, M.D., CHA vice president of external affairs Jan Emerson noted, “It would not be fair to place the blame solely on undocumented immigrants, but certainly, they are a contributing factor.” Okie’s article also revealed that illegals make up only about 20 percent of the country’s residents who lack medical insurance, and about 10 percent of the “uncompensated care in California hospitals” — 10 percent too much, sí, but hardly the invasion the now-dead Cosman and Dobbs want Americans to believe. Strangely, Dobbs has yet to mention Okie’s article (same thing printed in a different paper)

    ^^ from a US Senator

    ^^ author quotes USA Today

  15. JGFitzgerald says:

    I think DraegnHH just answered “true or false” with “fourteen.” Irrelevant, with just a hint of ad hominem dismissiveness. A typical bouquet.

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