A verdict is expected this week in the civil suit against Martin Memorial Medical Center in Stuart for flying an illegal immigrant patient out of the country in 2003 after he had accumulated some $1.5 million in medical bills that were unlikely to be paid. Luis Jimenez, who is Guatemalan, was working as a gardener when in 2000 he was badly injured in a car wreck with a drunk driver.
After the New York Times told Jimenez's story last August, it's become a flash point in the national debate about immigration and health care:
Mr. Jiménez's benchmark case exposes a little-known but apparently widespread practice. Many American hospitals are taking it upon themselves to repatriate seriously injured or ill immigrants because they cannot find nursing homes willing to accept them without insurance. Medicaid does not cover long-term care for illegal immigrants, or for newly arrived legal immigrants, creating a quandary for hospitals, which are obligated by federal regulation to arrange post-hospital care for patients who need it.
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Among his demands, Jimenez's cousin is asking for $1 million to pay for medical treatment in Guatemala. In closing arguments Thursday, the hospital's attorney emphasized its role in saving Jimenez's life and insisted that a probate judge had given it the legal right to return Jimenez to Guatemala.