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Suffolk County gambles with health of its residents

(excerpt from) Newsday
Suffolk’s policy not healthy
by Joye Browns / May 4, 2011

Suffolk County has made the decision to save a buck by gambling with the health of its residents.

In a new policy, which will take effect on Monday, residents going to Suffolk health care centers who do not have health insurance will be pushed to file for Medicaid.

And if they refuse — or can’t afford $75, the new high end of a sliding scale for services — they will be turned away.

Most of those denied service likely will be illegal immigrants. Spare me, please, the usual venom about how illegal immigrants are a drain on the local health care system. They are. But there are reasons hospitals, which operate under rules different from Suffolk’s centers, are not allowed to turn them away. Among them is the simplest reason of all: Sick people make people sick.

There’s yet to be a germ, disease or disorder caught checking a green card before deciding to dig in. That means illegal immigrants turned away from — or opting on their own to leave Suffolk health care centers for financial reasons — could go on to spread disease. This is not good public health policy.

“I couldn’t disagree with that,” Dr. James Tomarkin, the county health commissioner, said in an interview, adding that he was charged with implementing a policy handed down by his bosses…

…Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy decided to cut funding to health care centers in Huntington and Coram…

The center in Coram is affiliated with Stony Brook hospital. Employees at the center — the only one in Suffolk slated to shut because of the funding cuts — are planning an informational protest this morning…

Suffolk’s reputation has suffered internationally because of the way immigrants, illegal and otherwise, were treated…

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