Illegal Immigrants Account for $10.7 Billion of Nation’s Health Care Costs, Data Show

Matt Cover, CNS (Cybercast News Service) News, July 30, 2009

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that “illegal immigrants are not covered” in the health care reform legislation that is now working its way through House committees. But when asked about illegal immigrants who go to public hospitals for care, Pelosi told CNN’s State of the Nation on Sunday the law requires that they be treated.

The cost of treating illegal aliens amounts to nearly $11 billion a year, according to calculations done by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a non-profit group that opposes illegal immigration. {snip}

“If you’re in this country illegally, should you be able to get health care?” CNN’s John King asked Pelosi. “No, illegal immigrants are not covered by this plan,” she replied.

“And so what happens to a public hospital then, if they walk into the emergency room? The hospital I was at this week, they said, you know, they do 6,000 births a year there and 70 percent of them are for undocumented [patients],” said King.

“I don’t know about that,” said Pelosi. “But I do know that the law requires that if somebody comes in off the street and needs care, that is extended. {snip}”

According to FAIR’s Director of Special Projects Jack Martin, illegal immigrants cost federal and state governments an estimated $10.7 billion a year in health care spending. The numbers are contained in a report that FAIR plans to publish in the near future.

{snip}

Each anchor baby costs taxpayers an estimated $10,000 each on average, Martin said. These costs are usually paid through Medicaid, the federal program designed to aid America’s poor.

{snip}

Emergency room care for adults is another “significant” part of illegals’ overall burden, Martin said, one that is primarily borne by states, which subsidize the hospitals whose emergency rooms must treat illegal immigrants, no matter how minor their illness might be.

{snip}

The CIS study did include federal programs for which illegal immigrants are legally barred, such as Medicaid. However, federal funds still flowed their way due to the fact that illegal immigrant parents gain access to federal welfare and health care benefits through their U.S.-born children.

According to the CIS study, illegals accounted for 13.1 percent of all federal costs of covering the uninsured in 2004, an estimated $2.2 billion per year. Seventeen percent of households headed by an illegal immigrant were using Medicaid, accounting for 1.7 percent of all Medicaid recipients.

{snip}

“The current health care bill is looking as if it is leaving a very large loophole for medical coverage being provided to illegal aliens,” Martin said.

“There’s one provision that says they won’t be eligible, but the current legislation as it’s being written does not establish any system of verification as to whether or not a person is legal or illegal.”

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