Should Illegal Immigrants Get Free Healthcare?

Interestingly enough, most of the candidates running in the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination completed a questionnaire indicating that immigrants should be eligible for coverage under a health system, referred to as Medicare for all or a similar government funded system. However President Trump is totally against the idea. 

What the Healthcare System in the United States Looks Like Now for Immigrants

Currently, illegal immigrants in the United States are generally not eligible for obtaining Medicare or Medicaid. Not only that, they are also not permitted to buy health insurance at locations which are established by Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act. Illegal Immigrant children are not eligible for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). 

Some States Are Expanding Healthcare to Illegal Immigrants

Times seem to be changing as the District of Columbia, along with 6 states have expanded their healthcare system Medicaid to allow coverage for illegal immigrant children up to the age of 18, (age 25) in California. Also approximately 16 states have approved coverage for illegal immigrant pregnant women if they are income eligible. 

What Do Illegal Immigrants Have To Pay Now for Medical Care?

Currently, many illegal immigrants are charged a sliding fee schedule for primary care and prescription drugs. There are approximately 1,400 healthcare centers which are federally funded where Illegal Immigrants can go to obtain prescription drugs and primary care in approximately 11,000 communities. Immigrants can obtain medical treatment even if they can’t afford to pay. The staff at these locations do not ask the immigrants about their citizenship status. These centers care for over 27 million people. Also, if an illegal immigrant were to go to a hospital for emergency care, they will receive treatment. In very few cases some illegal immigrants may have some coverage through their employer medical coverage plans. 

What Would It Mean For the United States to Provide Illegal Immigrants With Free Healthcare?

There are mixed views on the health status of the majority of illegal immigrants in the United States. Some research states that most of them are young and healthy and would not be that big of a strain on U.S. healthcare, while other research indicates that due to their low economic status, many of the illegal immigrants suffer from obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. Some political views on the subject indicate that some illegal immigrants have made contributions to society by paying sales and property taxes. Most illegal immigrants when employed are paid in cash; however there are some that do pay income tax. Due to the number of illegal immigrants in the United States, allowing them to have free healthcare would put somewhat of a strain on the healthcare system economically. It only makes sense that more people receiving treatment would mean more staff would have to be hired and paid. A study conducted by the Center for Immigration Studies found that providing free healthcare to illegal immigrants could cost the country almost $23 billion annually. The study also indicated that approximately 4.9 million undocumented immigrants are below the line of poverty due to their low incomes. This means they would qualify for The Affordable Care Act or Medicaid. Of course this estimate would change based on enrollment numbers. 

How Trump Administration Affects Free Immigrant Healthcare

Very few illegal immigrants use healthcare that is available to them for fear of deportation after witnessing many raids and deportations after crack downs by the Trump administration. Even illegal immigrants who have children that were born as U.S. citizens are fearful about enrolling them into CHIP or Medicaid programs because they worry about the rest of their family members being jeopardized. For those applying for a green card, the government can deny anyone if they feel the immigrant would become a risk on public resources, referred to a “public charge”. Medicaid use was not considered a part of this factor; however due to a new rule proposal by Trump administration, illegal immigrants using Medicaid would be negatively impacted when applying for a green card. President Trump has indicated that allowing free health care to undocumented immigrants could affect the care that permanent residents of the United States receive in a negative way. 

Would Free Healthcare for Illegal Immigrants Be an Incentive for More Illegal Immigrants to Migrate to the United States?

As it stands right now, most illegal immigrants migrate to the United States due to obtain employment, escape dire security conditions, dire climate, and poor economic conditions. Offering free healthcare to immigrants may change the number of immigrants slightly, especially those that have serious health issues. 

The Simple Facts

No matter what the reason people have migrated to the United States illegally, they still get sick and require healthcare. Federal law in the United States dictates no matter what someone’s residency status is if they arrive at the hospital and are in need of medical care they must receive it. Illegal immigrants can also attend safety net clinics for primary care and prescription medications. Depending on the State the illegal immigrant resides, some receive more medical care than others, this is due to some flexibility with their healthcare budgets. This may lead to more states seeking permission to increase state and federal budget to cover the costs of safety net hospitals for everyone regardless of their residency status. Texas and Florida have already made waiver applications for this purpose. These two states have the largest population of illegal immigrants, the amount of money they would need to give to safety net hospitals would rise to 70 percent, a 50% increase. One of the most developed countries and highest rates of uninsured people worldwide is the United States. 

Conclusion

When it comes down to it, the bottom line is whether someone is a permanent resident of the United States or an undocumented immigrant. When someone gets injured or ill they need medical attention. Denying someone medical attention when they need it is a very inhumane thing to do. So any illegal immigrant in the United States can attend any hospital and obtain care as they cannot be denied medical care. Many illegal immigrants do not seek medical help for fear they will be deported. Maybe the U.S. Presidency election will make changes to the illegal immigrant healthcare system. 

Sources:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/03/health/undocumented-immigrants-health-care.html

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/providing-health-insurance-to-illegal-immigrants

https://ihpi.umich.edu/news/ironic-health-care-twist-undocumented-immigrants