Thursday, September 10, 2009


Health Care for Illegal Aliens

The man from South Carolina was half right, half wrong. He was wrong because Obama's health care reform plan and the other plans under consideration in Congress specifically state that any health benefits under the plan would not apply to persons not in the country legally. He was right because there was no special provision and no specific appropriation to check on the status of persons seeking health care under any of the plans. His fear was that, without any special effort to check the status of patients, some illegal residents would receive care under the plan.

My own first reaction, as a bleeding heart liberal, was, so what? In fact, the plan should include everyone, including illegal aliens in order to protect the rest of us from diseases that illegal aliens might otherwise spread.

My second reaction was that the man from South Carolina has not done a cost-benefit analysis. It will cost money to screen health care recipients to make sure that illegal aliens are excluded. Does the cost of the screening exceed the cost of simply treating the illegals? Would it not be cheaper not to spend much effort in checking?

Many years ago the English found that people from France and other countries in mainland Europe were coming to England to get free eye exams and free eyeglasses under the British National Health Service. The English decided that it was cheaper just to let the foreigners get the glasses than to spend the money to screen them.

This discussion of epidemics spread by unhealthy undocumented aliens and the cost of screening compared with the cost of treating misses another important point. Many people, including the man from South Carolina, feel very strongly that we should do nothing for people who have entered the country illegally. They don't deserve any benefits and we should make sure they don't get any. Cost be damned! It's a moral issue.


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