We don’t want to be thought of as Scrooges post-Christmas—particularly with the dashing approach of New Year 2006—but we did want to make some comments regarding the consequences of illegal immigration on medicine and health care. This has certainly been one of the most important and far-reaching issues of 2005. We have received many letters from readers asking us to “Please say something” on this emotional and fractional issue.
An old axiom states that what happens in California is a precursor to what happens in the rest of the nation. Unfortunately, this is true. So look for these issues to be coming to a capital in your state soon—if they haven’t arrived already.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, in 2000 the population of California had the highest percent of illegal immigrants in the country. The estimate by the Immigration and Naturalization Service was that 2,209,000 aliens resided illegally in the state, which was 31.6 percent of the estimated national total. Current 2005 illegal estimates vary between 14 million and 22 million nationwide.
A study by the Federation for American Immigration Reform estimated that in 2004 the annual uncompensated cost of medical care for illegal immigrants in California was $1.4 billion. Total uncompensated educational, health care and incarceration costs were estimated to be 10.5 billion.
Care is frequently provided to illegal immigrants by emergency rooms and is provided when a crisis exists rather than as preventive practice. Both phenomena add to the high cost of health care.
For 12 states, the government pays hospitals for providing emergency services to illegal aliens. In 2005, the state of California got $70 million to help with dismal shortfalls. California’s San Diego County was about $100 million in the red and Los Angeles County about $140 million.
Many California hospitals cannot afford to absorb costs and many are forced to close due to financial mandates for treating illegal immigrants. As recently reported, 84 California hospitals are closing their doors forever. Hospital closure degrades health care to all in the community and results in job losses.
Federal laws provide states incentives to provide Medicaid coverage to illegal immigrants. All state Medicaid programs offer an endless list of services, with some states, such as Florida, literally including the kitchen sink if home repairs and maintenance are needed. Only four states check for citizenship before awarding Medicaid. California escalated—in one year—from 450,000 illegal aliens on Medi-Cal (California’s version of Medicaid) in 2002 to 750,000 in 2003.