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Stuck in bed, at hospital’s expense

The New York Times, October 3, 2011

In New York City, with its large immigrant population, it is not rare for hospitals to have one or more patients who, for reasons unrelated to their medical condition, do not seem to leave. At New York Downtown, where a bed costs the hospital more than $2,000 a day, there are currently three long-term patients who no longer need acute care but cannot be discharged because they have nowhere to go. The hospital pays nearly all costs for these patients' treatment. One man left recently after a stay of more than five years. They are the forgotten people in the health care system — uninsured, usually undocumented, without resources and stuck in the system's most expensive course of care. Some are abandoned by or estranged from relatives; some belong in rehabilitation centers, where care is much cheaper, but because of their immigration status they are not enrolled in Medicaid or Medicare, so the places will not take them.