Friday, September 11, 2009

Death Panels for Illegal Aliens?

We keep saying illegal aliens are not covered in the new health care bills heading through Congress. Right wingers say they are.

It’s starting to dawn on me that we might be talking about two different things.

And if we are, it’s an incredibly frightening prospect.

HR 3200 and the other bills are health INSURANCE bills. Their aim is to reform the insurance industry by making premiums cheaper and getting rid of denials of coverage.

They will require that everyone buy insurance, and they will give tax credit subsidies to those who can’t afford it.

The bills specifically say that illegal aliens won’t be eligible for tax credits. But they don’t say they can’t buy insurance. They can buy insurance today, and presumably will be able to do so in an exchange, if they can afford it.

Some on the right fringe have argued that the bill lacks protections against illegal aliens sneaking in. They say “illegals” are all over other entitlement programs, even though it’s not true.

Ironically, covering illegal immigrants will save us more money than letting them be uninsured. We all pay when the uninsured come to hospitals in emergencies after they’ve let their conditions get dire.

If it’s really a fiscal issue, then we should want everybody covered.

But I’m beginning to see that it’s bigger than that.

What the right seems to be saying is that they don’t want illegal immigrants to receive health CARE – whether they can afford it or not.

There are so many arguments against this, I don’t know where to begin.

First there are the public health issues. If one group of people doesn’t get vaccinated, or doesn’t get treated for a virulent strain of the flu, then it will affect the general population. You or your kids can get sick – even if you’re all upstanding citizens who have always done the “right” thing.

Viruses don’t care whether or not you’re a U.S. citizen.

But there’s the moral issue. Do we want to be a society that mandates that we deny care to people who are sick or injured? That hospitals should turn away people who are having an asthma attack or who were in a car accident or whose temperature has risen to 104 degrees after five days of battling flu?

There’s the supreme irony of the right pointing, accurately or not, to the British system and accusing them of putting a price on the worth of a human life, and denying coverage based on that. This is where the death panel idea comes from. “They’re gonna put a value on your life and tell you whether you can live or die.”

And, yet, when it comes to Mexicans here illegally (because let’s not kid ourselves, “illegals” doesn’t refer to Canadians; they’re called “customers”), what we frequently hear is, “MY tax dollars aren’t gonna support those people.’”

And aren’t we effectively creating death panels for them?

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