Health Care and Immigration

There are many issues which arise in the American mindset when discussing immigration. The problems which arise from the open borders that the United States enjoys are many; there are those who feel that the ability of individuals to enter the country so easily poses a safety risk.

There are also Americans who feel that the numbers of illegal immigrants who enter the country put a financial drain on the American economy. These immigrants are seen to force American citizens out of jobs, thereby raising the unemployment levels of the country, as well as putting extra strain on public works programs by taking advantage of them without paying taxes. (Huber 1032)

This is especially true with the view of illegal immigrants and their use of emergent health care. The cost of health care for American citizens is already out of reach for nearly half of the population. Under current legislation, health care providers charge the government for the costs of emergency care of illegal immigrants. According to the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services, this will cost the American tax payer at least 250 million dollars each year. (CNN)

At current rates, the United States spends, on average, $6300 per person, per year on health care. This averages out to be more than 30% more than any other democratic nation (all others of which, have universally covered health care systems).

The burden of Americans to pay for the health care of their families, in the current state of the nation, requires wither paying into health care insurance – which may be subsidized by their employer, though not always – or paying for all health care out of pocket, prescription drugs included. In 2004, the cost of American health care rose 7.9% – more than three times the rate of inflation. (NCHC)

This brought the total annual cost of American health care to 1.9 trillion tax dollars. This amounts to nearly $6300 per person per year in 2004. The cost of health care has consistently increased each year; however the quality of health care has not seen the same increase.

One major problem that arises from the lack of universal health care is the inability to adequately survey the American population for health facts. Despite the overwhelmingly higher amount of moneys spent on American health care, there are millions of Americans who go without any form of medical exam or treatment every year.

This can have adverse affects on the study of disease communicability, treatments, and the overall health of the nation. Forty-five percent of American workers are uninsured, and of those, many reside at or below the poverty line. Because of this, there is often no money within the family unit available to use towards medical treatments.

The becomes an increased problem as many of these individuals are financially forced to avoid medical treatment until the last possible times – which often translates to increased medical costs as illnesses have progress, or caused increased damage due to lack of treatment.

In 1993, an article was printed in the Journal of Public Health Policy which stated “Public health is more important then health care”. (Gordon 261) This statement sums the problem which is plaguing the United States – failing public health.

The deteriorating state of health for the average American is costing millions of dollars each year in lost wages, production, and unpaid medical bills. The costs also transcend to the overall state of the country in that the decreasing health of citizens is impacting the ability of America to maintain its competitive edge in the world market.

The current lack of universal health care coverage for American citizens is clearly unconscionable. The government of the United States sends monetary and medical aid to other nations to ensure their ability to maintain modern levels of health and mortality – while avoiding health care reform at home.

A well maintained health care system would lower the employer’s burden for supplying of health care insurances to their employees – which translate to millions of dollars per company each year. By lowering or removing this burden, wages could increase, and/or the market price of goods could lower – thereby increasing the buying power of the American worker.

The changes which will be more likely to supply Americans with all necessary health coverage, as well as maintain economically profitable motivations for the medical industry would incorporate the following: First to introduce federal legislation which would alter, and limit the amount of profit and price fixing currently allowed under current law.

As the law exists, as set in 1984 in the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act, prescription drug companies are allowed to set a retail price at levels many times over actual production costs in order to regain research and development costs and to produce a profit margin before the generic drugs are open for sale.

While it is necessary for drug research firms to maintain a profit, the current profit margin far outweighs the harm done to uninsured American citizens. By limiting this profit, and expediting the release of generic alternative drugs, more Americans will be able to receive necessary prescription medication at far more manageable rates.

The next change that is necessary would be to introduce federal legislation which guarantees all American citizens necessary medical coverage. If done after the changes to the prescription drug laws, the cost burden to the tax dollar would not be significant enough to hinder such a program.

The benefits from such a program would be productive in many different facets of the economy. By increasing the overall health of American citizens, and by ensuring the addressing of all public health issues in the citizenry, the American worker would be more productive for longer periods of time. This would, in turn, increase the total dollar input into the tax system – further lessening the percentage of the health care burden.

This would also be true for the containment of communicable diseases. With many public health crises on the verge of impacting the United States, such as the bird flu, and the recent E. coli outbreak, it is extremely important to see that all Americans feel safe and able to address all health care concerns in good time.

This issue is especially important in regards to immigrants. When done through legal channels, all immigrants are checked for disease when they enter the country. However, illegal immigrants do not go through such screenings – and therefore are more likely to carry and spread infectious diseases.

Many diseases and viruses, such the flu, are often transmitted to far more individuals than necessary because of the inability of the afflicted to receive even basic medical care. The benefits of containing such outbreaks would again work to offset the cost of universal health care in the United States.

Without allowing for all people within the U.S. border to receive, at least, basic health care, the risk of epidemic and even pandemic infections increase. While the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act of 1985 states that no health care provider can refuse emergent care, many still fear the economic costs – and illegal aliens fear deportation. Under the current forms of American health care, this has cost many millions of dollars in unpaid medical expenses, as well as the closing of hundreds of clinics and hospitals since 1985. (Cosman 6)

This leads to the next issue which would need addressing -the cost of treating non-citizens and illegal immigrants. While most of these individuals also avoid care, cases of emergent crises are unavoidable.

In these cases, such as trauma, or extreme illness, non-citizens receive emergency room care, but rarely pay for the services. In this case, should a full reform of U.S. health care take place, the burden would remain, but be significantly reduced. Because of the ability for most health care issues to pay for themselves, the loss created by illegal immigrants would not be paralyzing. This could also be a tool in combating illegal immigration, by immediately identifying individuals as non-citizens and dealing with them accordingly.

Finally, the proposed changes to the health care system of the United States would also act to decrease the motivation of individuals to enter the country illegally. By entering legally, and receiving proper citizenship, individuals would be able to receive the same health care as all Americans. It would be more motivating for them to enter through legal channels, and receive citizenship, and be part of the solution – rather than to risk increased chances of discovery and be deported.

Work Cited

Greenfield, L.  (1996).  Without Universal Coverage, Health care use  data do not provide         population health”. The Milbank Quarterly. Vol. 74, No. 1. p. 33-36.

Gordon, L.  (Autumn 1993).  Public Health is more important than Health           Care. Journal of          Public Health Policy. Vol. 14, No. 3. p. 261-264.

Huber, G. A.; Thomas J. Espenshade.  (Winter 1997).  Neo-Isolationism, Balanced-Budget        Conserativism, and the Fiscal Impact of Immigrants. International Migration Review.       Vol. 31, No. 4. p. 1031-1064.

Health Care Cost. National Coalition on Health Care. (2004). Retrieved August 13, 2007  

Cosman, M. P., PhD. (Spring 2005).  Illegal Aliens and American             Health Care. Journal of            American Physicians and Surgeons.  Vol. 10, No. 1. p. 6-11.