Health care is an extremely important component of community development. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, one of the leading community development foundations in the United States, considers health, poverty and community development to be “inseparable.” The reason is fairly obvious–– healthy children do better in school than unhealthy children and healthy adults are earn better incomes than unhealthy adults.
Undocumented immigrants have no access to health insurance. As result, undocumented families struggle to foster healthy communities. This contributes to crime and other community development problems. This also causes strain on hospitals. Under federal law, hospitals must provide care to anyone who seeks care in an Emergency Room regardless of immigration status. This kind of care is classified as indigent care, or charity care. To pay for indigent care, hospitals receive federal funding (taxpayers dollars) or make up for those costs with profits derived from seeing privately insured patients. Regardless, this health care ends up costing every American. However, lawmakers in California and elsewhere are beginning to realize that by offering basic health care to undocumented immigrants, they can save money when those patients do not put off care until it requires an Emergency Room.
Immigration reform has the opportunity to alleviate the strain on health care in America and improve communities where undocumented immigrants live. Under the proposed reforms, The United States Congress will soon take up a bipartisan plan to overhaul immigration in this country. Lost on many Americans is how important immigration reform is for all communities––not just undocumented immigrants.
Consider some the different components of community development that are often unattainable for undocumented immigrants–– health insurance, financing for houses and cars, public welfare programs, banking services, and in-state tuition (in most states). Lack of access to some of the key components of community development has a profound impact on undocumented immigrants and all Americans.
Undocumented immigrants must provide proof of employment and consistent employment. This means that any immigrants seeking to become American citizens will be required to have health care like any other American in the United States. Their employer will provide this, or they may be eligible for federal subsidies to purchase health care. In any case, the expected gains from insuring people and getting them the care they need before they seek the Emergency Room is expected to save a billions of dollars in uncompensated care.
By documenting and insuring undocumented immigrants, we can improve their lives and the lives of all Americans. Healthy immigrants with documentation will have the opportunity to contribute to society and have the opportunity to raise their children in healthy environments.
Guest Contributor: Addie Bryant