Healthcare for Immigrants

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 has gotten me thinking about this whole “the healthcare bill will/won’t allow illegal immigrants access to cheap or free healthcare.”

The Issue

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 Why?

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.

10 Responses to Healthcare for Immigrants

  1. BruceS September 27, 2009 at 8:43 am #

    How about this (also without any research or much thought)?
    Provide health care for everyone, especially in emergency. If the patient cannot provide documentation of legal residency, hold the patient for the immigration authorities. Along with this, completely change the system dealing with criminal aliens such that they are actually deported. Don’t allow them to take anything with them aside from their clothes, and put them in the farthest corner of their homeland from ours. How many aliens would come here for free health care if they knew they were really risking this?

  2. Garry September 28, 2009 at 8:37 am #

    I did just a little bit of research for my comment;

    Approximately 82% of immigrants (legal) vote straight democrat. I propose that “pandering” to the illegal immigrant section of society has it’s seepage to the legal component and effects votes. There ya go, what’s right either ethically, morally or financially has little to do with this. It’s all about getting in power and staying in power.

    And on the other side the republicans are pandering to thier base, regardless of the ethical, moral or financial justification take the position that illegals are breaking the law and should not be provided anything that requires legal taxpayer support.

  3. weeklyrob September 28, 2009 at 8:47 am #

    Garry: Yes, most immigrants vote Democrat. And it’s probably true that most of those immigrants would prefer lax enforcement on healthcare for illegal immigrants.

    But I don’t believe that therefore any move in that direction must be “pandering” rather than doing what you think makes sense.

    It sounds as though you’re saying that the only way to do something without pandering is to do the opposite of what your base wants.

    Regardless of the facts, if it turns out that your voters would want A, then if you do A, you’re pandering and it has nothing to do with being right? I don’t agree with that.

    I think it makes more sense to look at the arguments they present and see which ones work for you.

  4. Garry September 28, 2009 at 12:26 pm #

    Rob, you ignorant slut!

    pan·dered, pan·der·ing, pan·ders
    1. To act as a go-between or liaison in sexual intrigues; function as a procurer.
    2. To cater to the lower tastes and desires of others or exploit their weaknesses.

    My use of the word pandering was specific, in terms of the definition (#2). I in no way made the assertion that representing your constituents was akin to pandering.

  5. Kevin September 28, 2009 at 2:28 pm #

    I’m always baffled by the whole “illegal immigrant” debate, and it’s the same here. If a rich country with lots of freedom and a really long border is adjacent to a poor country there will be a net migration from poor to rich. The rich country can do the following:
    1) Try to discourage it and stigmatize it, but not really do anything to stop it. This is expensive and ineffective.
    2) Seal the border and adopt a national ID card. Then the country will not be so free, and therefore a less desirable place to live (it probably wouldn’t prevent immigration, just make it less attractive).
    3) Allow it and live it with at great expense.
    4) The rich country could invade, purchase, co-opt, or use other means to effectively expand it’s borders until they’re narrow and physical, like maybe the Panama Canal. Then you could seal the border effectively.

    I think number 4 is the obvious choice, but my “Invade Mexico” platform has so far garnered little support.

  6. Kevin September 28, 2009 at 2:52 pm #

    As to whether or not enforcement is required: What care or benefit are these illegals supposed to be able to get under the new system that they couldn’t get under the old system? You’ve still got to buy insurance to get care, don’t you? In fact, you HAVE to buy insurance or you’ll a fine or imprisonment, under the Baucus version.

    As far as I know there are no “free” emergency room visits or anything, so you’d have to be a low-income, deceitful but fully tax-compliant, permanent year-round resident with a social security number, illegal immigrant to gain benefits that weren’t intended for you (the subsidy payment).

    But maybe I missed something.

  7. weeklyrob September 28, 2009 at 3:44 pm #

    Garry, what does the fact that I’m an ignorant slut have to do with this?

    You gave one fact: most immigrants are democrats. You then made the leap that doing what those people want must be pandering and have little to do with “what’s right either ethically, morally or financially.”

    I’m saying that maybe you can choose to do what’s right and also have it be what your constituents want.

  8. weeklyrob September 28, 2009 at 3:50 pm #

    Kevin: I’m against invading Mexico unless we also invade Canada. They’re not poor, but I just want to invade them.

    As far as your second comment, I don’t know what they’re supposed to get, but I’m extremely ignorant about the situation, which Garry has dusted off his dictionary to try to point out!

  9. Kevin September 28, 2009 at 9:54 pm #

    Well, there’s an article in the Washington Times today saying that Michael Honda and 20 other Dems submitted a letter to Max Baucus seeking to specifically make sure illegal immigrants have access to the program, and for a reason you didn’t discover in your search: Because it would make the whole thing cheaper. It kind of answers my question. What would they get? The right to buy health insurance through the “exchange”. Apparently I was wrong about how the subsidy is applied (it’s hard to be right about this bill, as it’s so long!) and the insurance would be available at the discounted right without having to file tax returns (at least according to this article, who knows for sure). Rep. Honda’s thought is that having young, fit illegals in the program would raise the health level of the pool in general.

    I’m thinking this idea will be about as popular as the “Invade Mexico (and Canada, too!)” approach.

  10. BruceS September 29, 2009 at 10:22 am #

    Rob, you beat me to it, but didn’t provide the justification or overall plan. In fact, Kevin’s reasoning for the Mexico invasion is weak, though his plan *does* include the needed invasion of Canada. This whole “illegal immigration” fake debate is part of a ruse to get people to support the ultimate plan. We need to take over Mexico, not to deal with illegal immigration, but to capture their oil. Mexico has huge oil reserves just waiting for us. The problem is what to do with all the Mexicans. We sure don’t want *that* problem on our hands. The solution: export all the excess population to Canada, which has large expanses of unused land. To accomplish this, we need to take over Canada first. Once this is done, we’ll have a lot more natural resources from both countries, far smaller land borders, reduced illegal immigration, and a rest of the world with a whole new attitude toward us. I mean, we just took over two peaceful, non-threatening sovereign nations with no warning! After that, nobody would want to actually annoy us!
    Hey, you know who else has oil, and is our next-door neighbor?

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