Gray unveils new plan for health care for illegal immigrants

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder

Months after proposing a slashing of emergency care benefits for illegal immigrants living in the District, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray moved Thursday to restore them days before the D.C. Council votes on his 2013 budget for the first time.

Under pressure in March to close a $172 million budget shortfall, Gray proposed a dramatic benefits cut for members of the D.C. Healthcare Alliance, the city-run insurance program that largely caters to illegal immigrants.

But that plan drew near-immediate fire from at-large Councilman David Catania, the chairman of the council’s health committee, who vowed to find a way to fund the program.

On Thursday – one week after Catania unveiled a $20.5 million proposal to restore the funds that prompted criticism from the mayor’s office – Gray said he had come up with a plan of his own.

“We have crafted a proposal that fully restores emergency benefits for Alliance members, generates $5.25 million in new federal funds and has been certified by our chief financial officer,” Gray wrote in a letter obtained by The Washington Examiner on Thursday night. “This is a sound strategy that does no harm to patient access.”

Under Gray’s proposal, the federal government would pay 70 percent of the costs of emergency care under a provision of federal law that permits the use of Medicaid funds for emergency care of people who would otherwise be eligible for the program if not for their citizenship status.

That, Gray said, will generate more than $5 million from the federal government.

The new Gray proposal, though, would move non-emergency care outside of the current managed care plan and cap the District’s cost at what it ultimately pays in the 2012 fiscal year.

“If non-emergency costs for this population increase beyond this level, hospitals will share in the responsibility for funding this care with no impact on patient access,” Gray wrote. “If delivery of the benefit continues through managed care, the District will be responsible for 100 percent of any cost increase in fiscal year 2013.”

Gray’s proposal would also create a $13 million fund to support the rest of his proposal. The dollars, Gray wrote, would come from a variety of sources, including managed care drug rebates.

In a telephone interview late Thursday, Catania said he was not satisfied by Gray’s proposal.

“I’m not going to buy into a 'let’s-make-it-up-as-we-go-along' plan, and that’s essentially what the mayor has proposed,” Catania said. “It leaves too many questions unanswered.”

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Author:

Alan Blinder

Staff Reporter, D.C. City Hall
The Washington Examiner