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Hannity

Medial Strain?

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," October 5, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Welcome back to this special edition of "Hannity & Colmes." We're glad you're with us. I'm Sean Hannity reporting live tonight from the U.S.-Mexico border. We're just outside San Diego, California.

And earlier today I went out on a boat tour with the marine interdiction unit of the U.S. border patrol. Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HANNITY: so you guys were out today and just a couple hours ago you had two boats?

BILL MARTIN, MARINE INTERDICTION UNIT: Two smuggling boats, yes, illegal aliens.

HANNITY: How many people?

MARTIN: There was eight on one and six on the other. It's kind of a cat-and-mouse game. They watch us. We're out there looking for them. They'll probe us, try to find when we're out and not and try to exploit that, but we're out 24 hours a day.

They'll get someone who can barely operate the vessel. Usually in lieu of payment they'll let him drive it. If the boat makes it back, it does. If not, they'll ditch it and just get another one.

HANNITY: So really, you're talking about a treacherous, perilous journey that they're taking. And the rescue, how often does it become a rescue mission for you and your guys?

MARTIN: Probably half of our apprehensions result in a rescue. The boats will barely make it in. You'll see a couple new ones. We got last night here, pretty typical of the boats we get. They're late '70s, '80s models. They're dilapidated. They have no safety "equipment, no electronics, no flotation devices and they'll often overload them. And...

HANNITY: It's very dangerous.

MARTIN: Very dangerous. We've had one sink right as we got in with 12 people on it.

HANNITY: What is it like, the reaction, when you guys are out there, and you have your interdiction, you have your arrest, stopping people?

MARTIN: The most common we'll get is "I didn't know you guys had boats."

HANNITY: Really?

MARTIN: I love to hear that, because we're out there every day and a lot of people don't realize that. We are out there 24 hours a day.

HANNITY: And you know the locations where people are trying to sneak in?

MARTIN: Yes. Usually once any vessel passes the mouth of San Diego here, they're in violation of law if they haven't checked in with the customs dock here at Shelter Island.

If they've gone in, we've witnessed them in with radar, we have tracked them in from foreign waters, and they pass the mouth of San Diego, there's a reason they don't want to stop in, and we're going to stop them and talk to them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Now, federal law excludes hospitals from refusing emergency medical care to illegal immigrants. But hospitals say this law is now leading to escalating costs, with recent studies showing that illegals using the emergency room as their primary care provider. So how are these costs affecting general care for everybody?

Joining us now, from the El Centro Regional Medical Center, located just 12 miles from the U.S. border in Mexico, is the chief executive officer, David Green.

David, thanks for being with us.

DAVID GREEN, CEO, EL CENTRAL REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER: Thank you.

HANNITY: How big a problem is this affecting the health care system here?

GREEN: Well, I think it's an extremely crucial item that affect all of America but especially the California hospitals and most importantly, the hospitals here in — along the border. The border counties are impacted probably about roughly $1 out of every $4 of uncompensated care is directly attributed to border costs.

HANNITY: So what percentage of people that come into your hospitals do you believe are there illegally?

GREEN: We probably — that number would be about 10, 15 percent. Our charity care runs about 10 percent. And the vast majority of those are illegal.

HANNITY: OK. One of the things that really saddens me, especially when I was up in that helicopter ride all along this border, and it was the same thing when I was in El Paso and the same thing when I was in Arizona, is the level of poverty immediately just right across the border.

I mean, you have prosperity and wealth and the average home price over $500,000 on the one side. On the other side you have just bare necessities hardly being met in some locations. -- You know the area.

GREEN: Yes, definitely. And that does contribute to, perhaps, their desire to cross. Our real problem is that, when they do come across, either illegally, or through those that help them cross, often they get entangled in issues that create health problems.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Hey, David, it's Alan.

GREEN: ... We're the first wave.

COLMES: It's Alan in New York. I want to welcome you to the show.

I want to ask you specifically how illegal immigrants affect health care? And a San Diego Union- Tribune article in August that states that the study of border hospitals from 2002 shows that undocumented immigrants account for 25 percent of uncompensated emergency care. And uninsured Americans account for the rest.

Is that accurately stated? Or is it a bigger problem than the "Union Tribute" article pointed out.

GREEN: Well, it actually can be bigger. It depends on the particular area and how much the — the amount that is attributed to the emergency care.

What will happen is they'll come into the emergency room, and that is one piece of it. The other part that is unseen are the individuals that come over and live here and wait until they're ill and come to the emergency room for care.

The emergency rooms and physicians are basically hit very hard with this particular issue, and it's a drastic problem for us now. It's borderline for our survival the...

COLMES: Can we deny — if someone goes to an emergency room do we have to first ascertain if they're legal or illegal here? And do we deny care to those who are in the country illegally?

GREEN: The (unintelligible) Law makes us refuse to ask those questions. We have to treat first, ask questions later. But we also do not ask about their legal status.

COLMES: Ethically and morally don't you have to take care of people first and make sure if someone walks into an emergency room and needs medical care that they get it?

GREEN: I absolutely agree with that. And that is our mission and goal to provide that care. However, if we can't balance the books, we can't stay there for the long term.

Our concern is figuring out how to get enough reimbursement for this, to be able to balance those books, to keep the hospitals providing that care.

All of those individuals coming across seeking that care know that once they're across the border they have access to free care. And that is one of the challenges that we would like to provide, but there needs to be a way to reimburse people for being able to provide that.

HANNITY: Appreciate you being with us. Appreciate your time. Thank you.

GREEN: Thank you.

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