Monday, January 18, 2010

Undocumented Workers and Health Care

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

A reader posited a belief that undocumented workers (he or she used the right-wing term "illegal aliens") are a drain on the health care system. That's probably right. Lots of groups currently pose a drain on the health care system, including most Wal-Mart workers and the rest of America's economic underclass.

Any member of the working poor who does not have health insurance or the means to see a doctor for preventive services and medical attention has two options: ignore the problem until it worsens and becomes truly expensive, or go to the emergency room and then spend the rest of his life fighting collection agencies.

Undocumented workers are demonized by politicians to the point that they become everybody's whipping boy for everything. Listen to conservative noise radio and you will quickly come to the conclusion that these "illegals" are responsible for high taxes, high crime, failing schools, poor medical care, most abortions, the worst pornography, and the biggest potholes in the roads. They have become the classic Greek goats, the villains that we heap all of our troubles upon before driving them from our shores.

There are some fallacies at work with this picture that deserve to be addressed. I am fortunate to know many Hispanics in Missouri and Arizona. Most, if not all, of the ones whom I know are documented and are very productive members of their communities. Having brown skin and the ability to converse in Spanish does not mean that someone is illegal. Many of these people are from families who have been in the United States for generations.

Yes, but they are here taking away jobs from whites.

Possibly, but more often than not they are employed because of their work ethic - they show up for work on time, every day, and do the task without complaint. Are they underpaid? You betcha. And so are most American workers. Strong unions would do far more to bring about decent wages and safe working conditions than all of the threats, noise, and swagger being spewed daily by the teabaggers and racist vigilantes.

"Illegals" aren't the problem - they are a symptom of an economy in crisis - our economy. And "illegals" didn't bring our economy to its knees - and neither did the Obama administration. Our economy was ruined by two phenomenally expensive wars, neither of which did anything to diminish the threat of terrorism, and one of which had nothing to do with the issue of terrorism at all. Our economy was wrecked by the Bush administration systematically deregulating banking and Wall Street and letting the white collar thieves run around unchecked filling their pockets with as much cash as they could carry. Our economy was ruined by greed - too many people trying to get theirs and having no concern for those around them who were less fortunate.

Is it right to run a national health care system based on greed - where only those with means get treated?

Yes, undocumented workers undoubtedly do put a strain on our health care system, but that system has been hobbling along ignoring a big portion of the population, regardless of nationality or legal status, for years. The problem isn't the people, the problem is the health care system. America's doctors in the American Medical Association want the government to address this problem and fix it now. Small businesses want a way to cover their workers with health care, and the bill currently before Congress will do that. Hell, even Wal-Mart wants this bill to pass!

America does not have the world's best health care system or the best health care outcomes. In fact we are far down on most of the lists that chronicle such statistics. It is time for that sad truth to begin to change.

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