Posts Tagged Health Care

The Elephant in the Room: Panel on Immigration’s Impact on Health Care Reform

While there has been some discussion of whether illegal immigrants should be covered by proposed government insurance plans, the enormous impact of immigration, both legal and illegal, on the health care system has generally not been acknowledged in the current debate. On August 19, the Center for Immigration Studies held a panel discussing the health care issue.

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The Elephant in the Room: Panel on Immigration’s Impact on Health Care Reform

Contact: Steven Camarota, (202) 466-8185, sac@cis.org

WASHINGTON (August 10, 2009) – One out of three people in the U.S. without health insurance is an immigrant (legal or illegal) or the U.S.-born child (under 18) of an immigrant. Immigrants and their children also account for one-fourth of those on Medicaid. While there has been some discussion of whether illegal immigrants should be covered by proposed government insurance plans, the enormous impact of immigration, both legal and illegal, on the health care system has generally not been acknowledged in the current debate.

The Center for Immigration Studies will hold a panel discussion to explore what effects immigration policy both current and future may have on health care reform. The panel will be held at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, August 19, in the Murrow Room of the National Press Club, 14th & F streets.

Panelists will include:

Steven A. Camarota, Director of Research, Center for Immigration Studies, author of The High Cost of Cheap Labor: Illegal Immigration and the Federal Budget, and an expert in the areas of economics and demography

Robert Rector, Senior Research Fellow, The Heritage Foundation, an authority on poverty, the U.S. welfare system, and immigration.

James R. Edwards, Jr., Fellow, Center for Immigration Studies, coauthor of The Congressional Politics of Immigration Reform, and former Communications Manager for the Healthcare Leadership Council.

Moderator: Mark Krikorian, Executive Director, Center for Immigration Studies

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Corruption as Convention

In the midst of the debate over state-run health care comes news that blames the steady influx of immigrants for a rise in Medicare fraud.

A top investigator at the Department of Justice tells the Houston Chronicle, “There’s a real problem of health care fraud in recent immigrant communities—we see it every day,” the official said. “One of the reasons is you’re looking at people who don’t come up through the educational system, they’re impoverished, they think this country is very rich, and they don’t view taking advantage of a government program as a crime.”

The statistics on immigrant criminality are incomplete and unreliable, providing a muddled picture at best. But qualitative observation may lend credence to the DOJ official’s claim.

It has long been held, perhaps a bit hyperbolically, that America is exceptional. Our system of constitutional federalism predicated on the rule of law developed out of distinct social conditions and emerged as a unique alternative to the corrupt systems that have beset much of the world. We are heirs to a legacy of justice that guides our transactions and is backed by unparalleled legal protections. This legacy provides an expectation that governments will be restrained in their actions and private parties will honor their contractual agreements. While there are many instances in which our system falls short, this remains its core intent. Most peoples are not so fortunate.

Although the press has not reported the Houston Medicare fraud suspects’ nationality there is speculation that they are from Nigeria, a country rich in oil but “long hobbled by political instability” and “corruption.” It is not a stretch to suggest that state-sanctioned vice has always been a part of life for Nigerian immigrants. This brings to mind another oil-rich kleptocracy that accounts for 31 percent of our immigration: Mexico.

Fredo Arias-King, former advisor to Mexican President Vicente Fox, describes long-standing conditions in Mexico:

Mexicans are kind and hardworking, with a legendary hospitality, and unlike some European nations, harbor little popular ambitions to impose models or ideologies on others. However, Mexicans are seemingly unable to produce anything but corrupt and tyrannical rulers, oftentimes even accepting them as the norm, unaffected by allegations of graft or abuse. Mexico, and Latin American societies in general, seem to suffer from what an observer called “moral relativism,” accepting the “natural progress” of the political class rather than challenging it, and also appearing more susceptible to “miracle solutions” and demagogic political appeals. Mexican intellectuals speak of the corrosive effects of Mexican culture on the institutions needed to make democracy work, and surveys reveal that most of the population accepts and expects corruption from the political class. A sociological study conducted throughout the region found that Latin Americans are indeed highly susceptible to clientelismo, or partaking in patron-client relations, and that Mexico was high even by regional standards.

The expectation of corruption back home is why many Mexicans desire to come here. But ingrained prejudices are difficult to overcome. Even victims often imitate their oppressors. And thus it seems reasonable to surmise that the patron-client relationship, instilled for generations, is the lens in which some Mexicans view the state. Through such a lens, exploiting a federal subsidy is at worst a morally neutral activity necessary for survival.

Mr. Arias-King predicts that this phenomenon will slowly alter our institutions: “In the end, the result of mass Latin American immigration will not likely present the stark choice of democracy versus non-democracy for the United States, but the quality of democracy may indeed be affected.”
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