The Idaho Supreme Court ruled Monday that Ada County should have paid for medical care for a man who could not afford to pay his bill even though the man was not in the United States legally.
Javier Ortega Sandoval had a stroke in 2006 while working for an Eagle landscaping company and spent two months at St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, according to court documents. His total bill: $187,000.
When Sandoval's family appealed to the county for indigency funds, the county commissioners denied him benefits because he had come to the United States illegally.
A lower court upheld the county decision, but the Supreme Court ruled 2-1 on Monday that immigration status is not relevant to county indigency fund rewards.
"First, Sandoval's status as an undocumented alien does not affect the determination of whether he is a resident of Ada County. The concept of residency does not distinguish between citizens and those who have entered this country illegally," the justices wrote.
Justice Warren Jones dissented, arguing that Sandoval was living in the county only temporarily and thus not eligible for support.
County officials declined comment on the case but could ask for a rehearing.
St. Al's brought the case against the county, hoping to recover some of the cost for care.
"It's consistent with our mission to serve all people who walk through our doors," said Kristen Micheletti, director of marketing and communications for the hospital.