Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Congress Considers Restricting Health Care Coverage for Legal Immigrants

Members of Congress in both the House and the Senate continue to debate over how much health care coverage to provide to legal immigrants. It is time for Congress to recognize that health care coverage for legal immigrants would benefit not only immigrants but the entire U.S. population.

Don't believe me? Read Roger Cohen's op-ed from October 4th in the New York Times. Cohen writes, "When it comes to health, we're all in this together. Pooling the risk between everybody is the most efficient way to forge a healthier society."

Take swine flu, for instance. If my neighbor gets vaccinated, I'm a little bit healthier. If half of my neighbors get vaccinated, I'm in even better shape. If all of my neighbors get vaccinated, our whole community benefits.

Fundamentally, by ensuring that our neighbors are able to access health care, we keep ourselves healthier as well. Healthy communities are productive communities.

Legal immigrants cannot wait 5 years (as some lawmakers are recommending) before receiving health care coverage. The U.S. public as a whole cannot afford to wait that long to allow legal immigrants to integrate into the health care system. Preventative care now will pay off tremendously in the long run. In today's New York Times article, Prof. Steven P. Wallace (UCLA) says, "You can either keep those immigrants healthy now, or exclude them and wait until they get really sick, then pay for it down the line."

The United States needs workable solutions for health care reform. It should be common sense to allow legal immigrants in participate in the health insurance exchange and receive subsidized care if they qualify. It's time to choose solutions that allow an inclusive health care reform bill to move forward now.

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