Does Illegal Immigration Affect the Healthcare System?
The issue of illegal immigration and healthcare reform have been a huge controversy in the United States for a long time. There a varying viewpoints on how we should handle illegal immigrants in the US and how illegal immigrants affect the healthcare system. I will provide a history of illegal immigration as well as three viewpoints on how illegal immigrants are affecting the healthcare system in the United States. Some people feel that we need to provide healthcare to illegal immigrants because it is the right and moral thing to do while others feel that we need to send illegal immigrants back to their home country because we can’t afford to help natural born United States citizens as it is. Others feel that we should give illegal immigrants the opportunity to pay for their own health insurance and health care. My hope is by showing the different viewpoints of this issue my readers have a better understanding of illegal immigration and the possible effects of the healthcare system.
Illegal immigration didn’t really begin until the late 1700’s when the United States became an independent nation. Even then there was no federal law as to who could enter the nation until the Chinese exclusion act in 1882 which prohibited Chinese immigrants that were skilled and unskilled to and the Chinese that were employed for mining from entering the country; This act lasted approximately 20 years. Next came the 1924 Immigration Act “which banned all people who could not become naturalized citizens per the 1790 Naturalization Act. That naturalization law had originally said that only free white people could become naturalized citizens” (Little, 1). Little Stated “But the biggest change the 1924 act made to immigration policy was introducing numerical caps or quotas based on country of origin. These quotas gave enormous preference to people from northern and western Europe over those from southern and eastern parts of the continent” (1). This quota was put into play because the census was America was letting in to may immigrants.
In the 1960’s a new law was established that each year there would be a certain number of visas that could be issued in the US. The US citizenship and immigration services put a cap that no more than 7% of the total allowable visa can be issued to one nation. Before this change in 1965, there had been no numeric caps on immigration within the Americas. “When the U.S. decided that it would only take a certain percentage of people from each nation per year, it was the first time the U.S. had put an official cap on Mexican immigration” (Little, 1). Since then there has been small changes to the immigration law such as how many Visas (which gives a person temporary permission to stay in a foreign country) can be distributed yearly.
With illegal immigration comes an issue with healthcare and how they can receive healthcare. Everyone sometime in their lives will need to see a doctor and the US government helps their citizens receive healthcare even when they cannot afford it through government-based programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare is a government healthcare program which will provide healthcare to US citizens 65 years and older, also to younger people with disabilities. Medicaid is offered by state according to federal requirements. It is offered to US citizens who are eligible which includes people who are low income, children, pregnant women, elderly adults and people with disabilities. It is funded by state and federal government. Illegal immigrants are not awarded Medicare or Medicaid because these government plans are only awarded to US citizens. In 1986 congress enacted the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act which gives anyone the ability to receive emergency medical services regardless of their ability to pay. This act gives illegal immigrants the ability to receive emergency medical help if needed.
There are three distinct viewpoints I would like to discuss. The first viewpoint is that illegal immigration is costing the United States money to provide healthcare for the illegal immigrants and the US already has a financial crisis. Chris Conover goes into detail about this point in his article “How American Citizens Finance $18.5 Billion In Health Care For Unauthorized Immigrants.” Alexander Muschek also goes into detail on illegal immigrants within the healthcare system in his journal article “The Impact of Undocumented Immigrants on the Healthcare Infrastructure of the United States.” The next viewpoint is that we need to help the illegal immigrants and that we should open our borders. Mary Jo Dudley writes about how illegal immigrants are an important part of our economy in her article “Why Care about Undocumented Immigrants? For One Thing, They’ve Become Vital to Key Sectors of the US Economy.” Alicia Fernandez and Rudolph Rodriguez show us in their article why it’s important to help illegal immigrants in their journal article. “Undocumented Immigrants and Access to Health Care.” The last viewpoint I wasn’t to discuss is that we should provide illegal immigrants to opportunity to pay for their own health insurance. These people state that healthcare reform needs to happen so we can provide illegal immigrants the ability to get healthcare. Sommers states “Any long-term solution to disparities in care for undocumented immigrants will require fundamental immigration reform. More specifically, granting undocumented immigrants’ legal status and a path to citizenship should open the doors to programs such as Medicaid, Medicare, and tax credits for purchasing coverage through exchanges (programs for which some immigrants already pay taxes, even though they don’t benefit from them)” (595). If we have healthcare reform then illegal immigrants would have the ability to get health insurance whether through the government or to pay private health insurance.
Illegal immigration is costing the US billions of dollars and is affecting the healthcare system. One viewpoint is undocumented or illegal immigrants cost the US a lot of money especially when it comes to healthcare and that needs to change. According to Conover “All told, Americans cross-subsidized health care for unauthorized immigrants to the tune of $18.5 billion a year” (1). Some people feel that this is putting a strain on hospitals. “Muschek believes that this problem plays a big factor in hospitals having longer wait times in the ER, having to reduce staff to cover the lost expenses and even go bankrupt” (1). With illegal immigration on the rise and the need for healthcare services this is putting a strain on the healthcare system due to the fact that if illegal immigrants need emergency services they have the ability to go to the hospital and receive those services where or not they can pay for it. This means hospitals will not receive compensation and will have to find that money somewhere else such as cutbacks and layoffs. This will affect American citizens who work in the healthcare industry.
Another viewpoint is we should help illegal immigrants receive healthcare because they are here and it’s the right and moral thing to do. Mary Jo Dudley shows in her article how undocumented immigrants play an important role in our farming economy. According to Dudley “The department of agriculture estimates about half of the nation’s farmworkers are unauthorized” (1). If illegal immigrants are working in the US why can’t they receive healthcare like other working tax paying citizens. It shouldn’t matter what someone’s legal status is when it comes to healthcare. In their journal article Fernandez and Rodriguez state “Comprehensive immigration reform is needed to address national policies so that clinicians and health care systems can de- liver standard of care to patients without regard to their immigration status” (537).
These two arguments intersect in the fact that they both feel things needs to change regarding illegal immigrants and healthcare reform. The problem comes with how they feel we should deal with illegal immigration and healthcare. One view feels we need to help the immigrants and give them healthcare because they contribute to our society. The other view is that illegal immigrants put a strain on our economy and healthcare system and we need to change that.
The last viewpoint I want to discuss is that we provide illegal immigrants a way of paying for health insurance such as buying private health insurance or getting health insurance through their employers. According to Sommers “For most undocumented immigrants, the primary sources of U.S. health insurance are unavailable. Although approximately 80% of adult undocumented immigrants are in the labor force, most are in low-income fields that rarely offer health insurance, such as farming, building maintenance, and food preparation” (593). Since they are part of the US workforce we should help them by changing healthcare reform and immigration reform so they can receive healthcare.
The last two viewpoints agree that healthcare reform needs to change. The one view shows that we should give them healthcare because they pay taxes. While the other viewpoint agrees with that they also state that we should at least provide a way for illegal immigrants to be able to pay for health insurance such as tax credits for purchasing coverage. Both of these viewpoints are similar in that they both want to help illegal immigrants gain healthcare.
With all of these viewpoints one thing they all have in common is illegal immigration and healthcare reform need to change.
Conover, Chris. “How American Citizens Finance $18.5 Billion In Health Care For Unauthorized Immigrants.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 28 Feb. 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/theapothecary/2018/02/26/how-american-citizens-finance-health-care-for-undocumented-immigrants/.
Dudley, Mary Jo, and Cornell Farmworker Program. “Why Care about Undocumented Immigrants? For One Thing, They’ve Become Vital to Key Sectors of the US Economy.” The Conversation, 19 Sept. 2018, theconversation.com/why-care-about-undocumented-immigrants-for-one-thing-theyve-become-vital-to-key-sectors-of-the-us-economy-98790.
Fernández, Alicia, and Rudolph A. Rodriguez. “Undocumented Immigrants and Access to Health Care.” JAMA Internal Medicine, vol. 177, no. 4, 2017, p. 536., doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.9209.
Little, Becky. “The Birth of ‘Illegal’ Immigration.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, www.history.com/news/the-birth-of-illegal-immigration.
Sommers, Benjamin D. “Stuck between Health and Immigration Reform — Care for Undocumented Immigrants.” New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 369, no. 7, 2013, pp. 593–595., doi:10.1056/nejmp1306636.