What About Documented Aliens?

The issue of immigrants and aliens in this country has been heated for years.  It is something that has been discussed as the population has changed – especially in the past decade.  Sometimes, however, both sides of the debate seem to forget that this is a nation that, other than Native Americans, was largely built by immigrants.  Yet, these days, there are big questions that keep coming up about immigrants, aliens and paying taxes or having certain types of benefits, especially health insurance coverage. 

One state that has a huge issue with aliens is California, due to many factors.  Many of the state’s citizens are individuals that are aliens, and though the insurance coverage controversy is limited to aliens that are legally here – green cards and all – there is still a huge issue surrounding these individuals and their benefits.

To offset budget issues, Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed and is fighting for limiting or eliminating health care coverage for immigrants/aliens that have had a green card for less than five years.  This proposal would supposedly save $85 million or more by eliminating many preventative services for those individuals and their families.  The problem with this is that, once again, it’s great to look at the short term but the long term must be addressed.  If people do not have Medicaid coverage (called Medi-Cal in California), to help them stay healthy, studies throughout the count.ry in various states have shown that the costs are often much more in the long term because without preventative and basic care, people wait until their health situation is acute before they deal with it.  Because people wait until they can wait no longer, they end up in an emergency room instead of a doctor’s office, therefore incurring a cost that can be up to an average of 7 to 10 times that of a preventative or even an acute visit to the doctors office.  A doctors visit at a local clinic usually costs between $10 and $25; and a doctors visit at a private doctor’s office can be $35 to $100 depending on what area of the country a person is in.  With Medicaid, a doctor’s  visit would  cost a co-pay of $10 to $20.  All of these are far less than the average emergency room visit which can cost from about $200 to $2000, depending on where you are and the procedures that have to be done.  The likelihood of a low-income individual paying the doctors visit or working out payments with or without insurance, is much better than them paying for the hospital visit.  Too many times, the hospital gets stuck providing care and receiving little or nothing because the person truly has no money and the hospital is obligated not to turn anyone away.

It is important to keep an eye on California to see how the Governor’s bill turns out.  Let’s remember that aliens that are legal and have green cards have taxes taken out of their paychecks, thus contributing to the economy.  It is essential to weigh the pros and cons as well as the financial impact of cutting these individuals out of insurance benefits/Medicaid coverage that could essentially keep them and keep the economy healthier.

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