The status of undocumented immigrants/illegal alien is a hot topic not only for the United States but for the world in general. We have seen across the world the issue of undocumented immigrants and migrant searching for opportunities, seeking asylum, or simply searching for safety. With this said, the importance of policies surrounding health care has become prevalent. These barriers for undocumented immigrants go beyond policy and range from financial limitations, to discrimination and fear of deportation. Health care for undocumented immigrants in the Unites states is the topic that I will discuss and provide a potential policy change.
Definition and description of the issue
The definition of an illegal immigrant or illegal alien is defined by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952. If a foreign national enter the U.S. without following the legal immigration process to enter and remain in the country, are considered to be illegal immigrants. This also means that anyone who was not born in the U.S. or parents is not U.S. citizens will be considered an immigrant. Illegal immigrants cannot vote, receive social services from federally funded programs or social security benefits. (McFadyen, 2017).
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So, the issue is if they are illegal immigrants in the U.S. illegally and have not made the proper steps to become a citizen then why they should have the right to medical care in the U.S. but what is not look upon is the fact that health care is viewed as a society as a whole, and you cannot just declare that one part of the society is denied the right to health care. The thing is undocumented immigrants compare to their counter parts- legal immigrants are not afforded protection and programs, however they still get diabetes, have heart disease, break bones, etc. just like everyone else. And their health needs are just as important if we care about public health as a whole.
Exploration of the background of the issue
Undocumented immigrants living inside of the United States are the largest group of the population without health insurance. We have approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. and a third of the 49.1 millions of uninsured individuals in the United States are illegal immigrants. One of the issues surrounding undocumented immigrants and health care is who should pay for it? Medical help for illegal immigrants is prohibited under the Patient Protection and Affordable care Act, which was signed into law to make health insurance more affordable for low-income Americans.
But the thing is we already pay for illegal immigrants that might seek medical treatment. Through our tax dollars, so what would be the difference. We also have to think about when illegal immigrants come here to work they still pay some form of taxes. Such taxes include, state, local, income, property and sales taxes. The 11 millions of undocumented immigrants pay 8% of their incomes to state and local taxes. It is said that undocumented immigrants pay billions, upward of 12 billion each year in taxes.
Also, a study performed found that as much as 75% of the undocumented population is believed to pay into the social security system which is a benefit that they wouldn't even be able to receive unless they become a citizen. (Soergel, 2016). A lot of undocumented immigrants pay these taxes in fear and the hope that if they pay then they might have a better chance of becoming citizens. So undocumented immigrants are already contributing to taxes to fund health care.
We are at a complicated point in the healthcare discussion where no one wants to pay the extra cost to insure an individual that they might view as not even supposed to be in the country in the first place. I mean there's a battle now on who should pay for health care for citizen who cannot afford it or disadvantage and they are citizens! So one can only imagine that the conversation of health care and illegal immigrants is one that becomes heated very quickly.
If health care is viewed as a right instead of a commodity then the conversation is shift from everyone should have that right to some kind of health care. But our health care system is strongly rooted in our Capitalistic society and unfortunately the financial burden illegal immigrants has posed on the American health care system has been a chronic issue for years now.
Issue statement or statement of clarity
Many barriers prevent them from seeking medical care and one of the biggest barriers is the fear of deportation. Many states in the United States have barriers in place where if an undocumented immigrant come to the emergency room then they are asked to show their papers, or they have what is called "self-deportation" statues in place. Many authorized children of unauthorized adults do not seek care for their children because of this inability and the fear of deportation if caught.
This does nothing but harm the health of society as a whole. With this fear, many undocumented immigrants pay for treatment in cash and or go in their own neighborhood and seek someone who might be able to treat them. This only further exacerbate the health conditions that might be chronic. (Boerner, 2012). National policies that exclude undocumented immigrants from receiving health care were the most commonly cited barriers to health care. In some states active surveillance of providers led to the denial of care as providers fear losing their medical licenses or criminal procedures.
Possible methods of addressing the issue
How can we address this issue, first of all we need to educate ourselves as a whole? Let's think about this illegal immigrant do not take our jobs, they do many of the jobs that Americans will not do. They take these jobs and work for low wages, and still pay taxes. With this said, how come they cannot be offered medical care? We as a society need to look at the common good for all, illegal immigrants are not bad if anything they help us to keep our economy afloat.
We have to erase the stigma that they do not deserve health care, we have to remove the stigma that if you can't afford it then why should I pay for it? It is such an elitists mindset that many Americans have. Instead of viewing this situation in terms of if the illegal immigrant is sick because they cannot seek treatment because of the many barriers blocking their way and they get you sick, when this all could have been avoided if the undocumented immigrant could of went to the doctor.
Recommendation of a solution
Providing a pathway for illegal immigrants to become citizens without the fear of deportation, allowing a path of insurance options where the premiums are not out of reach. For example, there's a marketplace for insurance for low- income individual, how about setting up a kind of marketplace for insurance for undocumented immigrants where they have a choice to purchase insurance without all the barriers that might prevent them from doing so.
There need to be an expansion of a "safety net" meaning if you seek medical care for yourself or your children and you are undocumented then there need to be a program or advocacy group that can speak with you and provide a path for you to get treatment.
We can expand the capacity of public, nonprofit and free clinics to render care to the population. For example, in communities where there is a large immigrant legal and or illegal population then there need to be a clinic there where individuals can seek treatment if needed without barriers. This will be especially good for public health services such as communicable diseases, maternal, child health and preventative care.
Language barrier is one that affect many of illegal immigrant, they simply do not know what to do, and they especially do not know how to negative our health care system, at times I get confused when it comes to picking my health plan.
So, I could only imagine the difficulties that these individuals might face, which intimidates them from seeking treatment. If there is a more efficient way to get understanding and education to illegal immigrants where they know what to do and where to go, this will be a step in the right direction. Because if they know and understand that there's a clinic in the neighborhood that you do not have to fear, and you can get treated then this will save us all, because they are not seeking treatment in emergency rooms which are already overcrowded. This further demonstrate the need for advocacy groups in these communities that will be able to reach out to this population and educated them on what to do when they need to seek health care for them and their children.
This topic is simple, allow illegal immigrants access to medical care, it will help the greater good as a whole. No one should be denied for something as basic as medical care because of their status. Illegal immigrants do not go to another country to seek medical care, they are searching for a better quality of life for whatever reasons. They are searching for the pursuit of happiness. We all are. So, let's not deny them health care.
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