2.01.2004

CLOSE THE BORDERS ALREADY


Global HMO
INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY

Immigration: For those who think that illegal aliens are a good deal because they will work for such low wages, consider this figure — $9 billion.

That rather large sum is Rep. Dana Rohrabacher's low-end estimate of how much is spent each year on health care for illegal immigrants, not by themselves but by others.

So while illegal alien labor might be cheap for businesses that employ undocumented workers, it isn't, as Rohrabacher points out, for taxpayers.

Rohrabacher arrives at the $9 billion figure by multiplying $21 billion, the amount of uncompensated health care services provided last year by the American Hospital Association's member facilities, by 43%, the estimated portion of the uninsured in the U.S. that are illegal immigrants.

The real number is likely higher than $9 billion. The American Hospital Association represents most — roughly 70% — but not all, of the country's health care providers.

Rohrabacher isn't going after the entire amount yet, though. He's starting out with legislation that would "mitigate the damage" Congress caused by including $1 billion in the Medicare reform bill to pay for emergency health care services for illegal immigrants.

In a budget that exceeds $2 trillion, a billion dollars is a relative pittance. But it will grow faster than a metastasizing tumor.

"I will tell you now," Rohrabacher said last week from the House, "there is no one in this body that does not know and understand that a $1 billion program like this starting off, just opening the door, is going to end up being a $50 billion program 10 years down the line."

Unbelievers should be reminded of the Medicare reform bill that provided $400 billion over 10 years for a prescription drug benefit.

Passed last fall, the law has hardly had time to take shape. Yet the administration is already projecting the cost of the prescription benefit to be $540 billion over 10 years, more than a one-third increase less than two months after it was signed.

Rohrabacher's bill, should it become law, will have, at best, a modest impact on illegal immigration and the costs taxpayers bear for them. But if it stirs people to their senses and leads to an eventual — and rational — denial of health care and other government services to illegal immigrants, it would have a much larger effect.

Too bad the effect would be diminished, because the message of the president's de facto amnesty plan will still provide a strong incentive for more illegals to enter and wait until the next amnesty comes. As long as that's the case, the U.S. will continue to serve as HMO to Mexico, if not the world.

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