Monday, August 17, 2009

Health Care Reform and the Undocumented

The debate on health care reform has rarely touched on the undocumented, though it is a live issue in the southwest border states. But even there the issue is old, raised because of their already burdened emergency rooms. The undocumented cannot be denied help in the emergency room, though they do not qualify for Medicaid. Often costs then are shifted to the community tax base with miserly reimbursement from the federal government, or are subsidized by other patients. On top of that, emergency room care is more expensive. Still one of the House bills (HR 3200) expressly denies any tax-payer funds to buy health coverages for the undocumented on the insurance exchanges the bill sets up. A debate could be raised from the public health perspective of extending some basic services to the undocumented. But if "death panels" and "public options" have raise a public outcry to irrational levels, extending health insurance to the undocumented would drown out all other discussion. An L.A. Times editorial suggests that the issue be kept out of the current debate, but must be raised again in comprehensive immigration reform

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