The Health Care Costs of Open Borders
As a physician, I am concerned about the health and well-being of my patients. I am similarly concerned about the escalating costs of health care that are burdening middle- and working-class Americans. Each and every day, I see financially hard-pressed or uninsured Americans –many of them veterans –who cannot afford to be treated and are not eligible for government assistance. I can cite a few examples of our first responders and veterans who were forced to hold fundraisers to come up with the money to pay their medical bills or that I had to turn back to the streets because there was “no room at the inn” for them.
The irony of this situation is that while native Americans are being denied appropriate care, illegal immigrants are often receiving top- dollar care, courtesy of the U.S. taxpayers.
The Federation for American Immigration Reform ( FAIR ) estimates that it costs the federal government more than $17 billion to care for the medical needs of those individuals who are unlawfully residing in our country. This figure includes the costs of uncompensated hospital expenditures, Medicaid births, Medicaid fraud, and Medicaid for U.S.- born children of illegal immigrants ( so-called “anchor babies” ). State costs are pegged at more than $12 billion.
Technically, federal law is supposed to prohibit the expenditure of money to pay for the medical care of illegal aliens. However, numerous loopholes in the laws ( especially “Emergency Medicaid” ) mean that the taxpayers foot the bills anyway. Far-left “progressive” Democrats like California Gov. Gavin Newsom and New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio now demand taxpayers pay for the cradle to grave medical care of all undocumented immigrants.
This is wrong because it means that individuals who have no right to be in the United States are often being prioritized over American citizens. Let me cite a few examples from my work as a physician as well as from my colleagues:
- A Mexican national in his 30s approached the border and asked a Border Patrol agent if he could call 911 because he was sick. He wound up at a San Diego hospital where he was diagnosed with necrotizing pancreatitis related to alcoholism, spent almost three months in ICU and walked away having incurred costs of over $1 million which will be absorbed by the hospital or charged to U.S. taxpayers.
- Four days after suffering a stroke in Mexico, a Mexican national was brought to a local hospital. He spent six weeks there and later was released to a Board and Care facility with speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, the works – courtesy of U.S. taxpayers despite the fact that this individual had previously been found by immigration authorities to have committed MediCal fraud.
- An Iraqi man was brought to a local hospital directly from the San Diego International Airport. He needed emergency cardiac bypass surgery. He received it at a cost of over $350,000. No bill. No collection agency. No bankruptcy.
While non-citizens are receiving top-end care at our American medical facilities and simply walking away from huge bills that the hospital has to either write off or the taxpayers wind up on the hook for, hard-working Americans are being denied care because they lack health insurance or the right kind of health insurance. Many veterans find themselves in this position and I see it on a regular basis.
There was recently a situation where a patriotic first responder was forced to have his Fire Department colleagues host a fundraiser for him so he could pay the deductible necessary for him to undergo life- saving pancreatic surgery. Similarly, a young homeless American veteran who required partial amputation of his foot due to uncontrolled diabetes was refused placement to a skilled nursing facility because he lacked insurance – being discharged back to the streets!
In addition, a real potential public health emergency looms large due to once-eradicated diseases being brought into the United States by unscreened illegal immigrants. In recent years, we have seen a surge in cases of malaria, dengue, leprosy, Chagas disease, scabies, flesh-eating bacteria, and tuberculosis. We are also witnessing diseases little-seen outside the Third World, like schistosomiasis, Guinea Worm infection, cysticercosis, and Morgellon’s.
According to the Centers for Disease Control ( CDC ):
Studies have identified the importance of cross-border movement in the transmission of various diseases, including HIV, measles, pertussis, rubella, rabies, Hepatitis A, influenza, tuberculosis, shigellosis, syphilis, Mycobacterium bovis infection, brucellosis, and foodborne diseases, such as infections associated with raw cheese and produce. ( “The Migrant Caravan of Diseases,” American Thinker, November 28, 2018 )
It should be noted that the CDC does not recommend across-the-board screening for everyone entering the United States nor does CDC test for Latent Tuberculosis ( LTBI ). In Indiana, almost one-quarter of the nearly 2000 refugees admitted to the state in 2015 did not complete post-annual medical screenings.
The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons has weighed in on the topic:
What invisible travelers are accompanying them? And what infections are already here in the millions of illegals already dispersed throughout the country? In the past, waves of immigrants from Europe were stopped at Ellis Island, medically examined, and quarantined long enough to be sure they were not incubating a contagious disease. Procedures are less rigorous today, and, of course, those who enter illegally are not screened at all. ( “The Migrant Caravan of Diseases,” American Thinker, November 28, 2018 )
In recent months, the medical profession has been stumped by a polio-like disease that is striking down mostly young children around the country. It is called Acute flaccid myelitis ( AFM ) and is believed to be caused by a virus. This flu-like illness progresses to difficulty in swallowing, slurred speech, and sudden limb weakness. While polio itself has been wiped out in most parts of the world, it is still endemic in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria. It has also re-emerged in Venezuela. There is a high likelihood that AFM is being spread by the migrant “caravans” invading our country. We already know from news reports that many of the migrants ( especially the children ) are sick from a variety of illnesses. Most are not vaccinated and come from countries where public health and sanitary standards are low.
The question arises: Why would any responsible government expose its people to these diseases? Perhaps it is because our “open borders” ruling class is largely isolated from such problems, as they and their children are tucked away in their tony, “white-privilege” neighborhoods and exclusive private schools where the biggest challenge might be which country club to choose for a “sweet sixteen” party.
As a physician and as a parent, I reject the political agenda of America’s coastal liberal elites who would endanger the health of our fellow citizens and elevate the health care needs of illegal immigrants over our veterans and other native-born Americans and legal immigrants. In their relentless quest for political power and votes from the illegal immigrant population, these elites are willing to let your families suffer and even die from imported diseases and maladies or the lack of affordable health care which is readily provided to those who have broken into our country. It is outrageous and represents the most twisted set of priorities imaginable. As a doctor, I’m in the business of healing people and saving lives; I should not have to deal with the political power plays of the Democrat Party and its shameful leadership at the emergency room door.
Dr. James Veltmeyer is a prominent La Jolla physician voted “Top Doctor” in San Diego County in 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2017. Dr. Veltmeyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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