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Jeanfromfillmore
03-25-2010, 05:04 PM
Immigration Reform Could KO Health Care
March 24, 2010 - 1:30 PM | by: William La Jeunesse
While Congress voted to overhaul U.S. health care and provide universal coverage, 15 percent of America's uninsured population remains uncovered and unaddressed: illegal immigrants.
Democrats are expected to introduce comprehensive immigration reform legislation this spring, and when they do, health care costs will once again be front and center.
Under the new law just passed, illegal immigrants are not entitled to health care. That means undocumented workers will continue to get care the way they always have, showing up at county clinics and hospitals for emergency treatment. According to cost estimates submitted by various states, that costs taxpayers and ratepayers about $4.3 billion a year.
However, according to the conservative-leaning Center for Immigration Studies, that number would spike from $10 billion to $30 billion annually under immigration reform. At the high end, that could add as much as $300 billion to the Congressional Budget Office's cost estimates of the new health care bill, and make obsolete the promise by Democrats to keep the cost at $970 billion over 10 years.
"The health care reform bill does raise significantly the cost of an amnesty or legalization because roughly seven million low-income and uninsured illegal immigrants would now be insured at taxpayer expense," says CIS economist Steven Camarota.
Roughly 11 million illegal immigrants live in the US, according to the Census Bureau. About 35 percent have health insurance through their employer or their spouse. That leaves seven million undocumented workers uninsured and earning earn less than 400 percent of the official poverty level.
Individuals earning less than $14,404 and families of four under $29,327 would qualify for full Medicaid - that means 100 percent of their costs would be covered by taxpayers. Most others would qualify for subsidies - or affordability credits - worth about $5,000 per enrollee.
Camarota says taxpayers in border states like California and Texas would again pick up a large share of the tab, while federal taxpayers would pick up the rest.
"If a large fraction of the illegals sign up for Medicaid, then that's very tough on California's budget, a state with a large illegal population, because states pay for a large portion of Medicaid. If, however, the illegal immigrants are in the affordability credits part of the bill, then that will be borne by all taxpayers across the country," Camarota said.
But cost isn't the only issue. Enrolling illegal immigrants into the new system will improve health outcomes. Dr. Steven Wallace of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research says including undocumented workers in the health care overhaul makes sense.
"In the long term, the point is to make sure all Americans who are living here and working here have access to health care," he says. "It is simpler and therefore more efficient if you simply say, everybody who works gets health insurance. Everybody who has a low income, we will help you and we move forward. People don't come to the U.S. for health care, they come to work."
As a population, illegal immigrants are younger and healthier than the native-born and use less health care. But studies show that once someone gets insurance they use the system more. Secondly, federal subsidies are based on each enrollee, not how much their care actually costs an insurance company. Consequently, taxpayer costs remain high based on enrollment alone.
But when the immigration reform debate takes shape, advocates for undocumented workers will claim health care is a right, and once a bill is passed, newly legalized workers should be entitled to the same health care as all Americans, just as they were after the 1986 reform bill.
"It is an issue of fairness. If a person is working and paying taxes, if they get injured or get are sick, they should be able to access health care services to get care and go back to work and pay taxes," says Wallace.
http://liveshots.blogs.foxnews.com/2010/03/24/health-care-law-and-illegal-immigrants/