I have heard from many that they do not want illegal immigrants to benefit from President Obama's healthcare reform legislation. The primary reasoning behind this is that they do not want illegal immigrants absorbing tax dollars or insurance premiums meant for American citizens proper. The trouble is, illegal immigrants already cost American society a mint right now when they, presumably, are not receiving any assistance meant for low income Americans or those that already have health insurance. They do this in two ways.
When illegal immigrants get sick, they are faced with a decision. They must decide if they are so sick that it is worth seeking medical treatment that could expose them as illegals and get them deported back to their respective country of origin. The decision that they make costs each and every American citizen money regardless of which decision it is that they make.
Let's say they decide that they are so sick that they absolutely must seek medical treatment or they will die or suffer irreparable harm. That means they will be going to the only place that they know they can be treated without having insurance: the emergency room at the local hospital. Because of basic human decency (as well as the law in most states), no one that is sick is turned away from the emergency room when they are seriously ill. The hospital takes them in and treats them. You are probably wondering who pays for this charitable medical treatment and the answer is we do. The hospitals cannot get blood out of a turnip and they cannot get money out of an indigent patient they are forced to treat. Therefore, they charge their paying customers $10 for aspirin, $20 for cable in their hospital room and all the other price gouging that goes on in your itemized bill. If you have ever been hospitalized, find your bill and take a look. The hospital is breaking down everything they do into individual items and then charging you a good deal more for it than it cost the hospital to acquire and treat you with. This is chiefly how they cover all the red ink they expend on the people they treat that are too poor to pay for the treatment and all illegal immigrants fall into this category. Not only is the cost passed along in terms of the money you pay for treatment, but you feel the pain of the systemic inadequacy every time you have to visit the emergency room. Because the emergency room is the only place poor people are assured of getting medical treatment, they all go to their local emergency rooms when they need treatment for anything. If illegal immigrants are brought into the healthcare reform legislation, perhaps all of our hospital bills would go down since hospitals would no be inundated with people that cannot pay their bill.
Their second option costs society too. If they decide that they are not sick enough to risk being caught and deported, that means that they go on being sick. Their affliction may not be an illness that is communicable, but many times it is. Therefore, the longer that they go on being sick without treatment, the longer they will be spreading their illness around to every legal American citizen that they come into contact with. This spreading is no insignificant issue since most illegal immigrants do menial labor that brings them into direct contact with the general public. Exacerbating the problem, they have little or no savings of their own so they cannot afford to stay home and not spread the bug to everyone they meet. However, even if they did have the money to be able to take a few days for the fever to break and their period of contagiousness to pass, most work in jobs where it is taken for granted that they will show up every day and if they do not they lose their job. Therefore, the system is organized in such a way that illegal immigrants have every incentive to act as a human petri dish. Society then pays the price for that organization in decreased productivity each time the sick illegal immigrant passes on his or her illness to another person.
There is another problem that we have yet to hit upon. We have established that illegal immigrants cost money when they become seriously ill and have to seek medical care that they cannot pay for at an emergency room. What we did not cover is how the illegal immigrant gets that way. People with insurance get yearly physicals by their primary physicians where health problems are discovered in their early stages and preventative action is taken to remedy the issue and preserve the person's health. As the old dictum goes, an ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure and this situation is no different. Illegal immigrants have no insurance and no primary care physician to discover medical problems in the early stages. As such, the medical problem gets progressively worse until it can only be managed through radical medical intervention. For example, let us say that we have an illegal immigrant named Jorge that works for a fencing company. Jorge has high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol. Both problems can be controlled once a doctor discovers them and prescribes blood pressure medication and statins. However, Jorge has no doctor, has no routine physical and has no health insurance to pay for doctor visits or the medication to control his health problems. One summer day Jorge is working in the heat building a fence and the rest of his crew sees him keel over, clutching his chest. They start CPR and call 911. The ambulance arrives and takes Jorge to the nearest hospital where lifesaving surgery is performed. The surgery costs thousands of dollars that Jorge cannot pay and that the hospital now has to recoup from people like you and me when we seek treatment. Thousands of dollars that could have been prevented with a yearly checkup and two popular medications whose generic forms are fairly inexpensive to buy.
The reality is that the United States already subsidizes healthcare for illegal immigrants. The only difference is that currently we refuse them insurance and only take action when the situation is so dire that the treatment serious and expensive. If we allow them a place in healthcare reform legislation, it will likely sting to give benefits to people that are not supposed to be in the country to start with but it will also likely lower costs across the board, help our medical establishment function smoother and give hospitals that are struggling financially a way to step back from the brink of bankruptcy by reducing the amount of free medical care they have to absorb. It is not the popular solution, but it is the one with the best outcome for all.