Dr. Matthew Ladner

Why We Have To Get Healthcare Right: Part I

August 14, 2014

Dr. Matthew Ladner

Healthcare could be the single most important lynchpin policy issue that America has to grapple with today. There are two indisputable facts everyone can agree on when it comes to healthcare: first, everyone needs medical care at some point, and second, the cost of medical treatment is astronomically high. A couple days of uninsured hospital care could easily saddle someone with a lifetime of debt. It is impossible to bury your head in the sand deep enough to deny that our healthcare system is broken and needs reform. What many don’t realize however, is just how important healthcare policy is, and how desperately needed reform is. Let’s take a tour of six different policy arenas that are deeply entwined with healthcare. Here are the first three…

Immigration Policy
One of the central issues driving the immigration debate is the cost of providing healthcare for uninsured illegals. The Center for Immigration Studies estimates that the current cost of treating uninsured immigrants who entered this country illegally at all levels of government to be $4.3 billion a year, primarily at emergency rooms and free clinics.[1] Furthermore, the healthcare benefits that come with citizenship are a major driver of immigration. As US citizenship policy is currently interpreted, any child born within the geographic borders of the United States is granted automatic birthright citizenship, and that includes the children of illegal aliens. Tens of thousands of illegal immigrant mothers have crossed into the US as they near childbirth in order to gain citizenship for their children, and it’s attending healthcare benefits. Though these children are citizens, their mothers, fathers, and siblings that often stay with them in America are not. Since illegal aliens account for 25% of the US population without medical insurance, and are responsible for 70% of the increase in uninsured patients, it’s safe to say that getting healthcare reform right will deeply impact our immigration policy.[2]

Fiscal Policy
The cost of modern medicine is no secret. With advanced medical technology has come equally advanced costs. For example, in 2012 the total healthcare spending in America hit $2.8 trillion, or $8,915 per person.[3] It is not hard to see why we are closing in on having a $20 trillion national debt when we are spending close to 3 trillion dollars every year on healthcare services. Overall, the national debt has increased by an astronomical 7 trillion dollars since president Obama took office, and this increase is largely tied to the immense amounts that have been spent to fund Obamacare.[4] This immense debt is driving our economy into the ground as we continue to struggle to recover from the fiscal crash of 2008, and overall job creation and economic growth limp along. Crunching the economic numbers alone ought to drive us to reform our healthcare system.

Poverty Assistance Policy
Just as with the other policy arenas we’ve talked about, poverty policy is permanently intertwined with healthcare policy. The primary driving concern of the policy controversy surrounding poverty assistance in America today is not so much people’s lack of access to food or housing, but their lack of access to adequate healthcare. The very goal of Obamacare is to expand insurance coverage to the very poor, but it is backfiring. The expanded coverage has dramatically increased non-urgent emergency room visits as low income patients on Medicaid come in to the emergency room seeking routine care such as treatment of lice or braces for minor sprains.[5] This trend to go to the emergency room regardless of the treatment needed actually undermines the quality of care that the poor receive as they would be better off going to specialists in most cases. If we get healthcare reform right, that will necessarily result in huge strides forward in poverty assistance policy.

To be continued…

Tim Caiello is a 2014 graduate of Columbia International University and Outreach Coordinator at Palmetto Policy Forum.

[1] http://www.moneynews.com/NealAsbury/Immigration-healthcare-illegal-emergency/2013/05/09/id/503579/

[2] http://www.fairus.org/publications/the-sinking-lifeboat-uncontrolled-immigration-and-the-u-s-health-care-system-in-2009

[3] http://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Statistics-Trends-and-Reports/NationalHealthExpendData/downloads/highlights.pdf

[4] http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/terence-p-jeffrey/706025967449751-federal-debt-7t-under-Obama

[5] http://www.marketplace.org/topics/health-care/ers-are-still-busy-affordable-care-act-and-all