Health Care for Illegals

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Of course I don’t think illegal aliens, or anyone for that matter, should get government health care subsidies. While I agree with Ryan McMaken’s critique of the Joe Wilson position, which seems to be more opposed to socialism for non-Americans than socialism generally, I do think eliminating subsidies for illegals is good policy. What I don’t understand is why leftists would agree. Seventy percent of Democrats believe that Americans should prove their US citizenship before receiving federal health care support under any new national program. Why?

After all, national health care is supposed to cut costs. One of Obama’s biggest arguments is that tens of millions of people are uninsured in this country, and in the long run it costs us all more because they get subsidized hospital care anyway, and the taxpayer foots a bigger bill than if we just had universal insurance.

It’s funny that so many don’t see this as a problem with having government subsidize hospitals in the first place. However, if the economic argument behind preemptive subsidies to stop greater government costs down the road is at all sound, it should apply to the illegals who will continue to get emergency care whether they are covered by the new plan or not. Few leftists would advocate disallowing emergency care to illegals, and yet for some reason they claim this unsustainable status quo is preferable to Obama’s supposedly cost-saving program being applied universally.

There exists a more fundamental dissonance in Obama’s position. If health care is indeed a “right”7—if “nobody should go broke because they get sick” and “no one should die if they can’t afford health care” are statements of universal morality—why does it only apply to Americans here legally?

And why should it only apply to American citizens and not the millions who are not citizens but have broken no immigration laws?

Now, nobody knows for sure what the plan will cover in its final version, but the leftist rhetoric on this does not add up. How could I have a moral obligation to support the medical needs of a US citizen living 3,000 miles away in New York, but have no obligation when it comes to non-citizens residing in my very city?

Socialism and nationalism, in the end, go together well. Many intellectuals of the socialist variety admit we cannot have open borders, and even favor stricter enforcement of immigration law—especially against the demonized businessmen who dare to hire illegals—because they know that the “human rights” they speak of are positive rights, involving access to limited resources, rather than negative rights like the right not to be taxed or assaulted or killed. Positive rights unlike negative liberties must be rationed out.

The leftist conception of rights is forever in tension with itself. And leftist policies create social conflict where there was none before, since the government’s job is not to enforce justice and property rights, but to ensure a standard of living to which people are supposedly naturally entitled. This standard of living cannot be given out to everyone, however, which is why the social democracies of the West tend to be more restrictive on immigration than America is. In a welfare state, the rich lose their right to take their money outside the country; poor people are prevented from coming in.

But here’s another angle to the issue. Insofar as Obama might be telling the truth for once, and assuming we get some sort of health care system that excludes illegals, will illegals also be exempt from supporting the system? Probably not.

Many illegal aliens pay income tax, getting phony social security numbers in order to do so. Since the IRS will likely be the agency that enforces mandated health insurance, this means that millions in this country could become captive customers of the insurance industry, forced to subsidize those with preexisting conditions and all the rest, and yet be ineligible for the government giveaways that are supposed to make it all equitable. Thus the plan, as Democrats are portraying it, would constitute an aggressive measure against peaceful immigrants, both legal and illegal.

If Obama is lying, the plan will rip off American citizens to finance illegals. But if he is not lying, it will rip off aliens to finance American citizens. To the extent this happens, we can expect all the most productive non-citizens to be discouraged from being here, working, and paying into the system.

Of course, the whole idea of this being economically sound policy is absurd. It will on balance be bad for everyone, except the government and its kept medical industry.

Immigration into America has for long been flavored by statist interference. With the collapse of the artificially generated housing bubble, immigration has sunk. In a free society, the degree of immigration would be determined by market demand, private property considerations, and the free will of those migrating. Under a statist empire, many come who may not have otherwise come, and many are kept out who would normally be welcome to enter. Crackdowns on immigrants have in many instances deprived communities of market-demanded labor.

Either Obamacare represents a socialist intervention that will attract immigrants who would not otherwise come, or it will be a nationalist intervention that pushes away hardworking immigrants we could use to help rebuild our society.  Either way, whether Wilson was right that Obama was “lying” or not, the immigration issue demonstrates one more area where moving closer to national health care will mean less justice, more attacks on freedom, and more distortions of the free market.

3:51 pm on September 15, 2009