I've been puzzled about the entire healthcare debate. Why isn't anyone bringing up the obvious point?
More below the fold.
Fifteen years ago the voters of California attempted to deny health care and education to illegal immigrants by passing Proposition 187. I remember it well. I voted against it, but not for the reasons you might think. I was recently reminded of my thoughts of opposing Proposition 187 by our current health care debate in the nation’s Capitol.
What I remember about Prop 187 back from ’94 is how one of my friends, who I consider somewhat progressive, was so adamantly in favor of the proposition. He hated the idea that his tax dollars were paying for these people’s health care. He told me how he remembered some kids he went to grade school with, illegal immigrants themselves, said that it was no big deal when they got sick or hurt, that they would just go to the doctor and it was taken care of, but that when he got sick or hurt he couldn’t do the same because he would have to pay for the coverage. I remember clearly being bothered by his attitude, not because it was callous, but in some way that I was unable to put my finger on at the time it seemed scientifically short-sighted.
It was probably several months later that it really struck me that indeed, that was the case. I believe that I got the idea while listening to Dr. Dean Edell on KGO. If I remember correctly, he was discussing vaccinations, and something called "Herd Immunity." Herd Immunity is when a group of any kind benefits from the immunity to disease by a significant portion of the members of the group. Essentially, depending on the disease, if a certain proportion of your neighbors are immune to a disease, it becomes more difficult for you to get the disease yourself. Even if you are not immune to the disease, it has no direct path to you, so you share the benefits of those who have been immunized.
Now, I considered how this would work if Prop 187 denied health care to illegal immigrants (it was overturned 5 years later.) I seriously doubted, and still do, that people would stop trying to immigrate to this country if denied health care. That’s not why they are coming. They are coming to increase their income. Perhaps that should be past-tense since all immigration seems to be decreasing in the current economic depression (not my designation, the IMF has designated this a depression.) So, if we denied health care to a group of people in our country, we essentially would be setting up an enclave where disease could get a foothold. Fear of deportation and denial of services would prevent illegals from getting the health care they needed, and would allow new disease to spread within the enclave further, or allow old diseases to become resistant to treatment. Since the illegals weren’t being deported any faster, after all they were "doing the jobs Americans wouldn’t," those of us who weren’t here illegally would still be exposed to those who were. Meaning that all of us would be at danger from these new and/or reemergant diseases.
Think "Swine Flu" and Multiple Drug Resistant Tuberculosis or Staph.
This was an idea that I had understood for so long that it was simply part of my set of "Common Knowledge." To me, it’s obvious that we absolutely do not want any group of people within our society to be without basic medical coverage. It’s not good for any of us.
So, when I hear people debating the idea of single payer health coverage, S-CHIP, or allowing people to buy into MediCare or similar ideas, I don’t understand why anyone would say that we can’t afford to give everyone health care in the U.S. To me, it’s obviously a bad idea to give disease a safe haven. Especially now that we are seeing people losing their health care at a record pace. The cost of covering basic medical costs for everyone in our country is minimal compared to the costs of denying it to any group. It’s like saying we don’t need a Public Health Department monitoring the cleanliness of our restaurants.
And I am left wondering, why isn’t this obvious to everyone?
Proposition 187 overturned: CA's Anti-Immigrant Proposition 187 is Voided, Ending State's Five-Year Battle with ACLU, Rights Groups (7/29/1999) http://www.aclu.org/...
"IMF Says Advanced Economies Already In Depression", by Angus Whitley and Shamim Adam, Bloomberg News, February 7th, 2009. http://www.bloomberg.com/...
"Blue Double Cross", Opinion by Paul Krugman, The New York Times, May 22, 2009.