The Health of Undocumented Immigrants

california-spend-98-mil-promote-healthcare-exchangeThe controversy concerning illegal immigration and undocumented immigrants has always always been a fiery one. About 7% of California’s population (nearly 2.6 million people) are considered undocumented immigrants and the state has spent nearly $600 million on emergency-related services for illegal immigrants. The number of undocumented immigrants living in the United States is around 11.4 million according to the latest surveys, and the taxes being paid by undocumented immigrants tallying up to $11.64 billion in state and local fees. In 2012, nearly 7% of K-12 students had an immigrant parent, with 79% of these students being born in the United States and California is quickly becoming the first state to offer undocumented immigrants Obamacare.

The debate is divvied into two opinions, with one group stating that undocumented immigrants do not deserve and should not receive in-state tuition and scholarships, let alone subsidized health care, while the other fights for a more inclusive method that would allow them to receive such benefits. The proprietors of the former mentality believe that we are already struggling to provide and care for other Americans, and that we should not be giving so much aid to those who are not legal American citizens, while the other side discusses that we should be open to supporting those leaving other countries for a better life here. According to an article written against taxpayer-funded healthcare for undocumented immigrants, the author states “Controversy already exists over the use of emergency rooms for medical care by undocumented immigrants because they know they’ll receive care regardless of their ability to pay for it —which they commonly don’t. Funding for those visits currently comes from federal, state and local taxes, and hospitals in certain cities with high immigrant populations have an expectation for the flow of these patients.” The vendetta is who should we provide healthcare for – undocumented immigrants or citizens of the U.S. and how do we protect those immigrants and uphold American values while making sure that American citizens are the first priority.

The current policy standards regarding undocumented immigrants is that most undocumented immigrants do not seem to have access to taxpayer-funded health care. According to the Healthcare.gov website, current undocumented immigrants do not have access to the healthcare marketplace, stating “Undocumented immigrants aren’t eligible to buy Marketplace health coverage, or for premium tax credits and other savings on Marketplace plans. But they may apply for coverage on behalf of documented individuals.” California is proposing the usage of a state-requested waiver from the federal government that will be needed to allow unauthorized immigrants to purchase unsubsidized insurance through Covered California, the state’s healthcare exchange.” The quoted senator Ricardo Lara stated that it would help close “another barrier to health insurance access that discriminates against some of our residents on the basis of their documentation status.” The waiver is said to be unsubsidized, which would mean that it would not cost anything to the taxpayers, but would instead put the check on the federal government to pay for. Instead of having the federal government pay for the unsubsidized health care of nearly 39,000 immigrants or more, the governments and states should be finding more ways to allow undocumented immigrants paths to legal US citizenship, while being able to pay privately for health care and other subsidized loans which should be reserved for legal US citizens in need of them.

In that matter, undocumented immigrants would get the healthcare that they need, without depending on the federal government to do so. While these people should be given the tools and practices that are needed to become legal citizens should they choose to take that path, it should not be put upon the federal government to provide for them. Some of these methods can include practice for citizenship tests and guidance to make the process as smooth and accessible as possible for those who want to expedite becoming legal citizens of the United States. Doing it this way allows for undocumented immigrants to become United States citizens, while at the same time not allowing for these people to have the federal government continue to pay for healthcare for those who do not belong to the United States, and it allows for US citizens to have access to the federal funds that they might need in case of severe disability, or other debilitating issues.

Take Action: learn more about undocumented immigrants and their health care options here.

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Alexandra Van Erven is a PVNN Policy Corner writer who has an innate passion for politics, social issues and how they affect our society. She currently attends Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida as a senior majoring in Communications Studies; additionally, she is also working towards a minor in English. She has taken multiple journalism courses and writes for three other publications, including her University Magazine to help put her passion for Journalism and writing into a meaningful experience. In May of 2014, she started her personal blog, Pro-Life Female to voice her opinions about important social issues, including abortion.

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