September 3, 2004
Three years ago, my wife, a Mexican immigrant (now a proud U.S. citizen) had to have surgery. She being the only member of our family not covered by any health plan, I took her to one of the county clinics that made the arrangements for her to have the surgery done at Olive View County Hospital. Before being admitted to Olive View, we were interviewed by a case worker to determine my wife's eligibility to receive free or discounted medical aid.
I have attached a copy of a fax sent to me on approximately April 4, 2001 from Olive View case worker Susan Veklotz (the date stamp on the fax, Dec. 13, 2001, is in error), asking for the following means-test information: Form MC13 Statement of Citizenship (copy attached), bank statements for two accounts for February and March of 2001, and my wife's alien (expired) card and social security card.
The above said information was supplementary to information which my wife had already provided which consisted of copies of the trust deed to our house, the title to our car, the adoption papers for our three adopted children, a copy of my wife's naturalization document, and the social security numbers for myself and each of our three children.
I leaned over to case worker Veklotz and asked her in a quiet voice if she asked the same questions of all those other people (I pointed to a large number of non-English speaking people). The case worker turned to me and said candidly that county case workers don't ask them those questions because they are undocumented and they can't produce the needed documents -- saying further that she didn't even know if they were giving their right names. Moreover, she said that county workers are not allowed to ask patients about their citizenship or immigration status. But when I asked Veklotz why my wife was asked about her immigration and citizenship status, she couldn't answer.
I could only conclude that the county health system administrators discriminate against citizens through profiling. My wife commented to me later that to avoid all the red-tape and the $600 we were eventually assessed to pay, she should have gone in for care disguised as an unmarried illegal alien immigrant.
It is a myth that county case workers are not allowed to ask patients about their citizenship or immigration status -- in fact, it is a requirement to receive Medi-Cal.
Section D, of form MC13 asks if the applicant has a Social Security number. And says further that Aliens who are not in "satisfactory immigration status," and who do not have a SSN, can still get restricted Medi-Cal if they meet all eligibility requirements (legal residency not being one of them). Of course since the county is not supposed to discriminate against patients based on ethnic or social profiling, I would expect that "all" patients, regardless of ethnic or social status, are supposed to provide citizenship and immigration status, and means-test data information when being admitted to the hospital. Surely, the Department of Health Services in Los Angeles County (presumably in all California counties) must maintain a database of records containing MC13 information which it must provide to the Federal Government and the State of California, the principal funding providers of Medi-Cal -- thus it appears that it is a requirement that anyone seeking government funded health services must be given a means-test regardless of immigration status -- otherwise, the county would be discriminating against U.S. citizens like my wife.
The truth is that county case workers profile. When someone has the appearance of being an illegal alien based on ethnic origin, manner of dress, and inability to speak English, they are not put through the red-tape nightmare as are citizens like my wife and family.
Because the county workers cannot through profiling, distinguish between legal immigrants and illegal ones, both groups are put in the same class of patients who won't be asked to prove inability to pay for health services. But patients who do not provide means-test and immigration information cannot receive state and federally funded Medi-Cal, so the cost for their care comes out of the county.
In lumping all those who appear foreign in one group that is not asked to provide information required of citizens, the county does not know the ratio of illegal aliens to legal resident aliens and thus, has no accurate records.
The county not only provides free care to both legal and illegal immigrants which they do not do for citizens, but they advertise it on the back of busses and billboards.
When I met my wife in Van Nuys 15 years ago, she was herself an illegal immigrant. When I applied for her immigration visa, I had to sign an affidavit that I would foot all costs for her well being so that she would not be a public burden -- and that's the way it should be.
Since my lawsuit targets only legal immigrants whose sponsors promised to pay for their care, it will serve also to force the county to release data to show how many people who are not supposed to be here in the first place, seek free county help.