The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has told New York state health officials that chemotherapy, which had been covered for illegal immigrants under a government-financed program for emergency medical care, is no longer qualified for coverage, according to The New York Times (NYT).
According to The NYT, the decision will set in motion a battle between state and federal governments over the definition of medical emergencies. New York officials and critics said that the judgment indicates that the Bush administration is attempting to exclude the uninsured from public health services.
There are an estimated 500,000 illegal immigrants living with cancer in New York.
On Sept. 21, N.Y. officials sent a letter to CMS protesting the change, stating that doctors should determine when chemotherapy is needed.
New York estimated that the federal government denied $60 million in matching funds for emergency Medicaid from 2001 to 2006, including $11.1 million for chemotherapy.
In New York City, cancer kills 15,000 residents a year, making it the second-leading cause of death among both the native- and the foreign-born, according to a 2006 survey by the city’s health department.
Health and Hospitals Corporation said that New York City’s public hospitals, which serve 400,000 uninsured patients a year including illegal immigrants, will continue to provide the cancer treatment, but if there is no Medicaid reimbursement, they will have to look elsewhere for financial support, as reported in The NYT.