NEW ORLEANS — The baby business has never been as busy or costly for Dr. Kevin Work.
"I'm really not making any money," he says.
His deliveries are up six-fold since Katrina, to about 65 a month.
"This whole situation is straining the system, but whose problem it shouldn't be is the patient's," he says.
Patients like 21-year-olds Juliana and Ricardo, recent immigrants from Mexico.
In the past two years, some 10,000 Latinos have moved here, many lured by the promise of construction work as the city rebuilds from Hurricane Katrina — jobs that pay up to $15 an hour.
The money's good, but insurance is out of reach and a risk.
"He accepted us without papers," says Juliana.
And he asked no questions, she says, important for undocumented workers worried about deportation.
Despite those fears, many immigrants head to home supply stores and busy street corners nearly every day looking for work to support their growing families. It's a scene some critics find offensive and exploitative.
"There is simply no way that the cost — the value provided by those illegal workers — is going to be more than what it's costing the community to provide all these services," says Dan Stein with the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
Because of their legal status, many immigrants forego standard medical care. Charity Hospital, New Orleans' largest for low-income patients, remains closed.
"We're trying to get every woman into prenatal care," says Shauna Lovera with the Latino Health Access Network. "Regardless of if it's free or not free, it's still better for the baby and the mother."
But when expectant mothers show up at private hospital emergency rooms — already in labor — the law says they must be treated, even if they can't pay.
Juliana and Ricardo are trying to pay their own way, but they can afford little more.
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