14
Nov
09

Wading into the Great Debate

I’ve avoided commenting on the healthcare controversy too much because, first, it’s a massively complex issue that would require several posts to do justice. And second, I have no desire to spend time purging my inbox of illiterate screeds that insist I’m a socialist under Obama’s evil spell.

However, I do have to make a few points about the legislation that Congress is considering. Because my focus is on Hispanic culture, let me throw some information about Latinos’ healthcare at you.

Hispanics are younger than the general population, and therefore enjoy the health benefits that come with youth. Also, when compared to white people, we tend to have healthier hearts (yes, despite our infamous hot tempers) and are less likely to suffer a stroke.

However, these pluses must be balanced against the fact that we tend to be fatter, have a greater risk for diabetes, and are less likely to be fully immunized when compared to the majority culture.

Most interesting is that Latinos are the group most likely to be uninsured. A stunning 40 percent of Hispanics don’t have insurance, which no doubt accounts for a large chunk of the overall uninsured rate of 16 percent.

Of course, one reason for that is because the current system makes it difficult for immigrants to get insurance. And since we’re on that subject…

It’s telling that despite all the problems, controversies, conspiracy theories, and whacked-out distractions that accompany the healthcare debate, only one concept provoked a U.S. congressman to shatter decades of political etiquette and indulge in a childish outburst. You no doubt remember this magical moment:

What got Congressman Wilson so up in arms was Obama’s statement that illegal immigrants would not be covered under his plan. Now, it’s one thing to shout insults at the president on live television. It takes even more cojones when you’re wrong.

In fact, illegal immigrants are not covered under any public option. Nor would they be provided with vouchers to help them pay for insurance. The Senate version of the bill even prevents them from buying insurance on public exchanges.

So it seems pretty clear that they’re not covered, right? Well, what has Wilson supporters screaming that their man was right is that the House version of the bill does not specifically bar illegal immigrants from buying insurance with their own money at full cost.

Regardless of political ideology, it strains logic to say that this provision means that taxpayers will have to pay for illegal immigrants’ healthcare. Actually, it seems to me that it would be the other way around, in that illegal immigrants would pay full price and help lower the costs for everyone. But I’m not an economist, much less a right-wing one.

The only way to appease the nativist crowd is if illegal immigrants are not allowed to buy anything in this country with their own money. Their cash,incidentally, is usually earned by repairing your roof, picking your vegetables, and raising your kids. But that’s another story.

By the way, one late amendment would send the bill for illegal immigrants’ healthcare to their countries of origin, which is at least a creative (albeit farfetched) approach. I’m sure, however, that this idea will go nowhere.

In any case, we can have a legitimate discussion about how much all this costs, and if it’s the best way to address the problem, and how to address the healthcare of non-citizens. But we’re not having that discussion, because too many people are busy shouting “Communist!” and accusing Obama of setting up death panels while dishing out free healthcare to illegal immigrants.

In a decade or so, after all this is sorted out and the United States has some kind of public healthcare, we’ll be stumped over what all the screaming was about. That’s my hope, anyway.

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