US Immigration Policy and Healthcare

Sometimes we get on our high horse here and talk about real US Immigration policy issues and how it effects all US Immigrants on all types of US Visas as well as Green Card holders and sometimes even illegal immigrants.

Recently we discussed US immigration policy as it relates to Education policy and its relationship with the F1 Student Visa. Basically in short, how because of the short-sightedness and restrictions for growth for foreign students, the fact that 1 in 4 tech companies are started by Immigrants may soon shrink. Thus meaning innovation and economic growth may leave the US shores and go elsewhere.

Also we have talked about the ridiculous anti-immigrant policies like the H-1B restrictions considered by congress, and how political point playing and saving their own careers by blaming innocent parties are driving policy decisions at the top.

Both of these are actually somewhat related to our Healthcare and Immigration discussion. (We actually documented in an earlier post talking about the practicalities for the US Healthcare system for foreign workers and how to prepare yourself for differences to what you are used to back in your home land.)

The Healthcare Debate in the US

For many foreigners reading this and even current Immigrants in the US who may be under a rock somewhere, this has been the dominant news story in the US domestic new media for probably the last 6 months. It shows no signs of abating right now either with legislation being vigorously debated in Congress as we speak!

To give you a bit of background to the US Healthcare system behind all the hyperbole from both sides I will document the pros and cons below.

PROS
– Best medical facilities and access to widest range of highly skilled doctors and specialists in the world
– Extremely convenient access for majority to numerous pharmacies and medical locales
– For those with Health Insurance, generally very high standard of care
– For most people who have Health Insurance (about 80% of US population) vast majority of costs paid by their employer
– Has a Medicare program to cover a majority of health costs for senior citizens
– Has a Medicaid program run by the States to help cover costs for impoverished citizens

CONS
– Only rich, industrialized nation in the world not to have universal health coverage for all citizens
– Close to 50 million citizens have no health insurance and many more are under-insured meaning not enough coverage
– All this despite the fact the US Government spends more on health care per citizen than any nation in the world
– Out of control costs for employers and individuals meaning flow on effects to everything from much higher domestic flight costs on US airlines to the largest cause of foreclosures and bankruptcy for individual citizens
– Very much a disease care system with in my opinion a huge over prescription of medication
– Whole health system is profit based meaning of course, Pharmaceutical and Health Insurance make most money when keeping people sick/medicated and denying them coverage respectively
– US lags many both rich and poor nations in key indicators like infant mortality rate, overall health rating, etc.
– Concepts like “Pre-Existing Conditions” whereby you can be denied payment coverage from your Health Insurance company because you had this or related condition previously which doesn’t meet their criteria

So now that you have had a quick crash course in your US healthcare, let’s get on to the debate itself.

Essentially what is being debated at the moment in Congress, the Media and all around the country is;
1. How to Control Healthcare costs
2. How to make Healthcare affordable for all Citizens

Now how exactly to make this happen is what is caused all the heat and tension around the country with people on the left wanting a Universal Healthcare package proposed provided by the US Government and people on the right wanting to do things like give people tax credits and refunds as so they can buy it themselves. Then there are the majority in between who want some combination or portion of all this depending on their point of view.

The problem with the debate is that both political parties members, the Democrats and Republicans, all receive a lot of campaign contributions from the Healthcare industry and this clearly effects their viewpoints and definitely the way the legislation is written.

Healthcare and Immigration

Now how does this all relate to Immigration?
Well for both illegal immigrants and legal immigrants on work visas, nothing much is really changing as most of the Universal plans up for debate seem to only be accessible to US Citizens and Permanent Residents so you would still be relying on your Employer Health plan or whatever you may have bought yourself. You will still have to pay Medicare taxes from your salary and depending on what is passed, maybe others.

So what is so laughable about this whole process is that under US law no hospital can turn away someone who comes in for treatment. Therefore this clogs up US Emergency Rooms unnecessarily and actual ends up adding flow on costs to everyone via higher taxes and insurance costs.

One of the points of debate in all the plans proposed is whether particularly illegal immigrants (but to some degree legal immigrants on non-immigrant visas) should have access to the Government Universal Health plan or Health Market Exchanges that may be setup allowing people to by health insurance at more affordable amounts.

Because of how politically sensitive the Immigration issue is at the moment, particularly in light of all the Anti-Immigrant information and lies spread by Congress and the Media, that very few have the fortitude to make this available to all in the US. Even President Obama in his Healthcare address to the special joint sitting of Congress said this wouldn’t cover illegal immigrants.

Now back to the laughable part of all this. If this were open to illegal and legal immigrants and they then purchased health insurance via these options, this would lessen the strain on the US healthcare system, lower overall flow on costs to all US citizens and help the US economy as this money would go to companies who could then employ people!

This is why I am so pessimistic about Immigration reform which will probably be debated in the US Congress in 2010 as if this is the sentiment and prevailing wisdom during the healthcare debate where immigration is only a side focus, you can only imagine the viscous lies and lack of progress that will come in the future regarding Immigration

Like I said sometimes the only thing you can do is laugh!

CJ

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