The Great Health Care Debate: Where Do the Immigrants Fit In?

Categories: Immigration Lawyer Blog San Diego

You are not feeling well, so you go to the doctor. You walk in and the first thing you here upon arrival is “Hi, what type of insurance do you have?” And that’s the bottom line with our health industry. The HMO wants to get paid My own recent trip to the ER with a swollen hand (I got stung by some Sea Creature and had an allergic reaction, a bit scary) ended up lasting until 6 AM before the doctors could finally finish off the IV. My wife Erin has finally got me to admit that the Canadian health care system is better.
Which leads me to the question that every foreigner wants to know the answer to:
How can the world’s most successful economy, not even provide adequate healthcare for ALL of its residents?

The recent health care debate, and the proposed legislation has stirred up strong feelings on all sides. Doctors, lawyers, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Citizens, Permanent Residents, temporary residents, foreigners, and Illegal aliens all seem to have strong opinions on what’s wrong with our health care system.

Unfortunately many uninsured individuals, some of whom are illegals are forced to go to emergency rooms to get treated. President Obama stated on Wednesday that illegal immigrants would not be covered under his health plan. Most politicians are in favor of this, and it seems that any bill that passes to create a “government option” for health care insurance will exclude illegal immigrants.
I disagree. Especially when it comes to pregnant women and children. Undocumented pregnant women and children should receive coverage to ensure that newborns are born healthy and children receive regular checkups and vaccinations.

What about legal immigrants? When should they get subsidized coverage? When they become permanent residents? When they get any work visa?
Senator Grassley is trying to impose a 5 year waiting period before legal immigrants can get subsidized coverage. Under the current system legal immigrants must wait 5 years before they can become eligible for Medicaid.

One of the central ideas behind the health care reform is that is a right not a privilege. So why deny legal immigrants one of their rights?
Legal immigrants work and pay taxes into the system just as U.S. citizens do, and thus should be able to access federal benefits that are a basic human right.

Legal immigrants are not a burden to the health-care system. According to the non-partisan Kaiser Foundation, non-citizens have less access to health-care and receive less primary health care than U.S. citizens, but they are less likely to use the emergency room. In 2006, 20% of U.S.-citizen adults and 22% of U.S.citizen children had visited the emergency room within the past year. In contrast, 13% if non-citizen adults and 12% of non-citizen children had used emergency room care.

We are all waiting eagerly, to see what Washington churns out. Given Washington’s track record, my expectations are low, but maybe I’ll be happily surprised.