So I guess I’ll weigh in. Or rather, as is my wont, I’ll go on for many paragraphs about how the issue is more complicated than some people would like you to believe. And I’ll do zero research to see if I’m right!
An annoying and unproductive conversation I had with another commentor at mindyourowndamnbusinesspolitics.com has gotten me thinking about this whole “the healthcare bill will/won’t allow illegal immigrants access to cheap or free healthcare.”
It was easy to find the issue. Though the healthcare bill disallows any benefits for illegal immigrants, there’s no enforcement clause, so people won’t have to prove that they’re here legally before receiving the benefit of the bill.
In fact, though Republicans kept asking for such a clause to be put in the bill, the Dems kept knocking it out again.
But it was a lot harder to find out WHY the Dems didn’t want such a clause. I could find Republican statements with their guesses about the Democrats’ motives. Plenty of that around.
But you know, I usually find that your opponents don’t present the best case for your argument on any given issue. So I’d rather hear from the Democrats themselves.
Eventually I found a few claims. Here they are:
Claim #1. Many people, especially the poor, are unlikely to have documents proving that they’re legit and are less likely to be able to navigate the extra complexity of the system. The kind of clause in question will keep those people from getting care.
Reason for claim #1: Apparently, enforcement clauses in similar programs have led to a decrease in the number of people claiming benefits beyond the number that would be expected if it were just illegal immigrants.
Legitimate people have dropped out.
Claim #2. Enforcement costs more than it saves, due to added layers of complexity and administration.
Reason for claim #2: Apparently, in similar programs with enforcement, the amount of money saved by excluding illegal immigrants is outweighed by the money spent for administering the enforcement.
Sum of the claims: An enforcement clause would result in benefiting fewer legitimate people and spending more money.
Assuming these claims are true (go find out for yourself whether they are or not, but for the sake of argument), should we keep enforcement in or out?
The bottom line
I’m not sure.
On the one hand: It seems obvious that we should NOT have an enforcement clause. Dropping legitimate people and spending more money just to keep certain people from getting medical care seems kind of twisted.
On the other hand: There are intangible costs to consider. For example, if illegal immigrants are able to more easily get healthcare, won’t they be more likely to sneak over the border? How much would each additional illegal crossing cost the taxpayer? Not to mention the deaths and misery that these people face by dealing with “coyotes” and like.
Some people may see a moral issue here as well. Something like, “hey, it may cost us more, but it’s worth it because they’re breaking the law.” I don’t agree with that, but I can see it as an objection.
In short, as with most issues, it’s complicated. And that’s without even assessing whether the numbers are being correctly interpreted.
But it is probably wrong to paint it as a simple issue, or one that only bad guys would disagree with you about. The press should help out here by presenting the issues and actually researching to let us know who’s right on the numbers. Then we can make up our minds.