Should the undocumented get health care?

The health care debate is raging across the country and some have falsely claimed that proposed legislation would cover undocumented immigrants.

It won't. President Obama made that clear in a recent interview below with Spanish-language journalist Maria Elena Salinas.

But I think it should.

I'm not saying the undocumented should get free health care. But if they were allowed to pool together and purchase affordable health care along with the rest of the uninsured it would wind up saving us money in the long-run.

Why?

People who don't have health care for whatever reason can wind up costing the medical system more. More often than not those without health care wait until it is an emergency to go to the doctor. We know that an emergency visit costs more than a regular doctor's visit.

A friend of mine told me about his cousin from Peru who was in a car crash about eight years ago.

He was in a coma for four days. He suffered serious external and
internal injuries. In the end, he wound up with a hospital bill of
$67,000.

He didn't have health insurance. He only could afford to pay a fraction of what he owed.

He was unconscious when he was taken to the hospital. There was no time to ask about health insurance.

Nobody asked about his legal status either. As a society we can't
possibly deny those who might die medical treatment because they don't
have a green card.

We know many immigrants lack health insurance.

On Wednesday, the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that is
against increased immigration and any legalization program, released a
report on immigrants and health care.

Their study by Steven A. Camarota found that immigrants account for
27.1 percent of all those without health insurance, or almost one out
of three of the uninsured. But they lumped legal immigrants in with the
undocumented.

In an earlier study, this same group found 64 percent of undocumented
immigrants were uninsured in 2006, accounting for one out of seven
people without insurance.

Maybe they want to alarm us with these numbers.

People, regardless of their immigration status, will get sick, have children and have accidents.

If they don't have money, they won't be able to pay those bills. Then
those costs will result in higher premiums for people who do have
insurance and possibly higher taxes to pay for Medicaid and Medicare.

Wouldn't it be better to allow the undocumented to buy into the health
care system? If the Congress plans to come up with a way for U.S.
citizens to purchase affordable health care, then why can't that
include the undocumented. Wouldn't a larger pool of workers strengthen
the options?

The problem, as President Obama explained it, is that first we need immigration reform.

The president was interviewed last month by television journalist Maria Elena Salinas from Univision, and he said the following:

"When it comes to legal residents we want to find ways that they can
access preventative services, enrollment services, regular treatments.
So, I think there's a difference between legal immigrants who work here
-- they should have access to medical services. Undocumented workers who
are here illegally -- we want to create comprehensive immigration reform
so they can get on a path to citizenship. Until they do, we can't
reward them with some of the benefits which quite frankly cost us a lot
of money. There will be a lot of resistance when people who are
citizens and legal residents aren't getting these services and we're
giving them to undocumented workers."

Unfortunately, there is no political will to support a health care plan
to include the undocumented. Even though the president supports
immigration reform, there are a bunch of other issues he said he will
tackle first.

But the longer we wait the higher the costs will be for everybody.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE VIDEO

Comments

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  • If we know people are sick and we have the resources to help them, or at least have the ability to make some of the resources available to them, it's immoral not to help. If you pass a dying man on the road, and decide not to help him because he's undocumented, that's wrong. Health care is a moral issue. It's a right to life issue. Health care should not be a reward for good behavior. Immigrants aren't getting sick on purpose so they can indulge in our health care system.
    It's basic prejudice. People don't like undocumented immigrants, and so they feel justified in denying them access to basic human needs.

  • I like how you call them "undocumented immigrants" instead of "illegal immigrants" like you are trying to cover up the fact that they are criminals in this country.

    In response to Megan Cottrell, the problem with giving away something for free is that everyone will then want it. So who will foot the bill for the millions of illegals who want free health care, and the millions more who will be pouring into this country in pursuit of free health care? It simply would never work. Health care is a service that should be paid for just like all other services in this country. Let the free market work, because it works very well. The fact is that the more of a nanny state countries become, the worse off they do. Also you make it sound like people with no insurance are just left to die, which makes no sense. Emergency rooms do not turn away people who are dying regardless of their immigration and legal status.

  • In reply to Scam:

    Illegal immigrants pay taxes. It's a fact.

    Another fact: at least 18,000 people die unnecessarily because of lack of health insurance. How many more suffer unnecessarily? How many more go to the doctor when it's an emergency when the problem could have easily been taken care of if they had regular access to family care?

    The problem with the free market is that it screws people sometimes. Take the last two years as an example. We have laws that limit the work day because at one time, the free market made people work 14 hours a day in cramped tiny rooms exposed to god-awful chemicals. The market is run by people, and people often put profit over human life.

    Health care is a service, but it's not getting a manicure or having your car detailed. It's about life and death.

  • In reply to Scam:

    Undocumented workers actually have the best health care of all...our tax money. Why should illegal immegrants bother when a fake ss number is just a coyote away. I am a chef/owner and the bigger issue is Human Rights and Amnesty.

  • I want to share this video... I think it's funny...
    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-august-11-2009/reform-madness---white-minority

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