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Health care and illegal immigrants in America: why Mexico is the key

Urging Mexico to strive for a better health care system could relieve the burden on US taxpayers.

By George W. Grayson / November 19, 2009

Mexico City

Few issues have caused as much of a stir this year as the question of whether illegal immigrants will be included in the Democratic healthcare bill.

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Rep. Joe Wilson's "You lie!" outburst after President Obama stated in September that illegal immigrants wouldn't be covered is just one example of the tension. Eighty percent of Americans are loath to subsidize illegal immigrants according to a June 2009 Rasmussen poll. Amid a wobbly economy, the uncertain – though certainly high – cost of the health care bill contributes to such hostility.

But there's something that might help solve part of the problem, satisfying both Democrats and Republicans: a campaign by Mexican officials to improve the state of healthcare in their own country.

Mexico's healthcare system is corrupt, unwieldy, and grossly underfunded – and it's costing American taxpayers big-time. Consider this: The Mexican government spends $535 per capita on healthcare, yet American taxpayers fork out more than $1,100 in healthcare for the 12 million-plus illegal aliens in the US – most of whom are Mexicans who are uninsured or on Medicaid illegally.

Mexico's poor quality of healthcare is a forgotten factor that drives so many Mexicans across the border. As things stand now, illegal immigrants – like all who show up – cannot be turned away from hospital emergency rooms, for anything from a broken bone to illness and pregnancies. Each year, about 1 in 10 births in this country are to illegal aliens.

In general, they receive better quality care than what they could hope to receive back home. Even though lawmakers insist that healthcare reform wouldn't subsidize care for illegals, US taxpayers in practice will contribute to covering the cost of their care. If Mexico had better structure – and Congress can and should encourage such self-help – perhaps the US wouldn't have such a burden on its own system. Instead, Mexican leaders, who often live like princes, prefer to shift the obligation to the US, and America is taking the bait.

Inadequate funding isn't the only problem with Mexico's system: It staggers under the poor delivery of services, a venal labor union linked to drug smuggling and selling jobs at public healthcare agencies, and a Balkanization of the government-subsidized providers.

In addition to the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS), which provides health and retirement benefits to 45.8 percent of the population, there are individualized programs for government bureaucrats, oil workers, the two electricity companies, the armed forces, and the extremely poor.