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Health Care and Immigration
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May 23, 2009, 01:48 PM
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Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar writes at AP:
Illegal immigrants won`t be entitled to medical insurance under the health legislation Congress is working on, a leading lawmaker said Thursday.

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said the health overhaul would cover nearly everyone — 94 percent to 96 percent of the population — but not undocumented workers. Baucus is chairman of the Finance Committee, which has taken the lead in drafting the sweeping legislation.

"We aren`t going to cover undocumented workers because that`s too politically explosive," Baucus said during a session with reporters, in which he previewed legislation he expects to introduce by mid-June.[Senator: No health insurance for illegal migrants, May 22, 2009]

I would suggest immigration patriots counter with an amendment that would put this issue in the proper framework. Illegal aliens-and for that matter visitors to the US could all be covered by Universal Health Care. The issue is how this is paid for. The insurance of illegal workers should be paid 100% by illegal employers since so much of the wages of illegal workers are paid "under the table". This could be done by raising fines on immigration violations to whatever level is necessary to pay for this health care.

Yes, having true universal health care would be a draw to illegal immigration—but passing the long term health costs of illegal workers onto illegal employers would drive many of those businesses under. The net effect would be fewer illegal workers because there would be fewer jobs drawing them.

What immigration patriots need to make sure:if the US is destined for universal health care, there is absolutely no tendency of US citizens to subsidize non-citizens as part of the deal. Real universal health care in the US would remove much of the financial problems faced today in areas like emergency care.

I believe in being tough on illegal immigration. However, I don`t think that when dragging someone of a car wreck or delivering medical care for a gunshot wound, is the time to be checking ID`s. If we have a major pandemic in the US, it will not respect immigration status—and having any uncovered population is dangerous to the rest of us. We need to make sure is that all those present in the US are covered in some fashion by a self-funding policy. Legal visitors might be covered with a policy that is reciprocal to what US citizens receive in those countries. There are US citizens covered by French and British health care right now—it would only be reciprocal for the US to do something similar for French and British visitors to the US. However, health care for visitors to the US from countries that provide no health care to US citizens could be paid for by mandatory short-term insurance obtained by those getting a visa.

What Baucus is effectively proposing by avoiding the issue of health care for illegal workers is that American workers continue to indirectly subsidize much of the health care of illegal workers and visitors from countries without universal health care. Immigration patriots need to attack that issue head on.