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Report: Kids Legally in Idaho Become Medical Outlaws

June 12, 2007



Boise, ID - Five years is a long time in the life of a child, yet that's how long many have to wait for health care in Idaho if they are low-income, and their parents are immigrants. A report released today by the Health Rights Organizing Project shows that a federal five-year ban on allowing immigrant children to access Medicaid or state insurance is causing families permanent harm.

Corey Surber is the community health coordinator for one of the state's largest hospitals -- St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise. She sees the problem in human terms.

“We believe that these children should receive health care. Access to health care is a basic right.”

Surber says Idaho could take care of those children's health needs if Congress lifts the five-year ban. The report includes first person stories of those affected by the ban, including a child with severe dental problems that wound up with permanent jaw damage while waiting for care.

She points out that families affected by the ban are paying taxes like everyone else, yet have to use emergency rooms for routine care. Surber doesn’t think that's a wise use of the hospital or taxpayer resources.

“Really, their only venue to receive service is in a hospital emergency room, which is very expensive because we all end up subsidizing that.”

Deborah Smith/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - ID