Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Health Care and Illegal Immigrants

There is no doubt that Americans are paying more now than ever for health care as a result of the effect of uninsured illegal immigrants who are taking advantage of our medical system in the U.S. Currently, illegal immigrants are not eligible to receive public health care services, unless it is emergency care that is automatically mandated by federal law. Preventive care and other clinical and medical services are not available to immigrants unless they can provide proof of legal status or identification that allows them access to general health care. However, false IDs and other papers can be purchased readily by immigrants; and that illegal black market business is very lucrative, alive and well, and flourishing in many parts of the country.

Many services, such as walk-in clinics, do not require proof of citizenship. Therefore, illegal immigrants can make up fake names and social security information to receive treatment. And in many cases, these illegal immigrants are not reported and often not refused medical care. When the patients cannot afford the health care that they have been given, the burden falls to the American taxpayer to foot the bill. This cost amounts to billions of dollars every year. According to a report issued in March, 2005, by the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, the increasing number of illegal aliens coming into the U.S. is forcing closure of some hospitals. Also, there are previously reduced illnesses that are now being spread again with serious hidden health care issues.

Babies born in the U.S. to illegal immigrants immediately qualify as citizens for welfare benefits, and about 350,000 per year are born that automatically are eligible for public aid. Each of them also bring in illegal family members. The cost to Medicaid has been enormous as reported in WorldNetDaily. And, not having insurance is not the same as not getting health care. With the estimated 47 million uninsured reported in the U.S., the rate of those being illegal immigrants may be as much as 25% of those without insurance. The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that 59% of the nation’s illegal immigrants are uninsured. The law passed in 1985 referred to as EMTALA requires hospitals to treat uninsured patients without being reimbursed. There are heavy penalties imposed on any doctor or medical facility that refuses emergency treatment for anyone even if the screening is deemed to be non-emergency. Additionally, the fiscal liability to the health care system is tremendous for drug addiction and alcoholism because they are also considered diseases. With the influx of illegal immigrants, the U.S. health care system is now fighting drug resistant strains of tuberculosis, malaria, leprosy, polio, dengue fever, and more that had long been defeated here.

According to that report, the organizations that have been the most guilty of directing illegal immigrants into American health care systems are:

Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund,

National Immigration Law Center,

National Council of La Raza,

George Soros' Open Society Institute,

National Network for Immigration and Refugee Rights,

Southern Poverty Law Center,

and several more.

The Journal report advocated that America close borders, rescind automatic citizenship of the "anchor babies" born by illegal immigrants in the U.S., punish more severely the aiding and abetting of illegal immigrants, end any amnesty programs, and enforce the current laws on the books that penalize employers and others who do not report illegal immigrants. The current debate over the residency status of the illegal immigrants--estimated now to be about 12 million living in the U.S.--is getting short shrift in political circles in 2008 at present. The race for the American Presidency has been largely focused on the economy with the Iraq war coming in second. Last year, there was a lot of attention on illegal immigration, but that has since died out as a primary reason to elect a new president. Why is that? Has the population of illegal immigrants suddenly disappeared or stopped putting a drain on the American economy? NO!

Health care benefits are still extended to most illegal immigrants; and the American taxpayers are still paying the bills, and the medical community is hemorraghing money by the billions of dollars. One thing is clear: illegal immigrants are driving up the cost of health care and the ranks of the uninsured. USAToday online reported recently that because many illegal immigrants are young and healthy for the most part, they usually do not need medical services. At the state and local levels, there is more cost in public health care services than are paid in taxes. In some states, the increase in Medicaid due to illegal immigrants was over 28% in just 4 years. While the government wrangles over how to provide medical coverage to this community, illegal immigrants rely on federally funded clinics--there is little to no charge for basic services and no proof of citizenship required-- and on free samples of medications and over the counter drugs. And seniors who cannot pay their bills are written off by the medical system as uncollectible.

Most of the time, illegal immigrants will forego preventive treatment due to fear of deportation. In those cases, they live with the pain or illness until the health problem is critical and requires emergency care. This mindset makes it worse for the patient and for the medical provider with the taxpayers picking up the tab in most cases. The staggering costs of uncompensated medical care for illegal aliens in California in 2004 are huge according to NewsMax, and taxpayer-funded medical outlays for health care provided to the Texas' illegal alien population amount to about $520 million a year, according to FAIR. In Arizona and other border areas, states paid nearly $190 million in health care costs for undocumented immigrants in 2000, a Congressional Budget Office study reported. The amount, which the study says likely has risen since then, represented one-quarter of all uncompensated health care costs in those states that year. And the unpaid medical bills continue to rise at a very alarming rate.

So now what? Americans must lobby the government to be diligent on enforcement of the laws pertaining to illegal immigration. We need to ramp up the heat on the politicians who represent us at the federal, state, local levels. Americans need to force the issue with their elected representatives to make illegal immigration a top shelf issue once again. There should be collaboration with the medical community to enforce tougher standards for reporting abuses by illegal immigrants. Americans are tired of footing the bill for free health care of illegal immigrants. Yes, we should be compassionate if someone is critically ill or experiencing emergency conditions that are life-threatening. However, as health care costs continue to increase every year, there needs to be accountability on all fronts. Let's work together to resolve this problem.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

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