Friday, July 31, 2009
Christopher Beam writes for Slate.com:
One of President Obama's favorite arguments for health care reform has been economic: If it saves money, do it. Except when it comes to covering undocumented immigrants.
Obama reiterated Thursday that a health care bill will not cover illegal immigrants. "Undocumented workers who are here illegally—we want to create comprehensive immigration reform so they can ge! t on a path to citizenship," he told Univision. "Until they do, we can 't reward them with some of the benefits which quite frankly cost us a lot of money." That was after some conservative commentators claimed that some versions of the bill would insure the undocumented, ignoring language in the bill that limits access to "an individual who is lawfully present in a State in the United States."
Adding the immigration debate to the health care debate isn't likely to make either one simpler or less emotional. Still, the reasoning is pretty straightforward: If you think insuring the uninsured makes economic sense, then so does insuring undocumented immigrants. But neither side in the health care debate seems eager to make this point.
The case for insuring illegals is simple. Society already pays the price for treating them. But it pays in the least efficient way. When someone who doesn't have insurance shows up at a hospital with a bronchial infection, doctors are required by federal law to treat him or her. The hospital then ! passes on those costs to the rest of us in the form of higher prices for other patients, which leads to higher insurance premiums and, in the cases of Medicaid and Medicare, higher taxes. Better to insure those patients so that they can go to a doctor at the first signs of illness—not when they start coughing up blood. Click here for the rest of the piece.