Amnesty's Impact on Health Resources

By James R. Edwards, Jr. on December 18, 2012

If Washington enacts a mass amnesty, even one that limits illegal aliens' new legal status to some kind of provisional or temporary immigration grounds, it will likely add to taxpayer health care costs and risk depriving Americans from timely health care.

Obamacare exempts illegal aliens from eligibility for Medicaid or a premium subsidy and from the individual mandate to get health insurance or pay a fine. But once they gain legal status, former illegals are likely to become eligible for Medicaid or the taxpayer subsidy for paying their premiums.

Because illegal aliens are disproportionately likely to earn low incomes, they are almost guaranteed to fall into the income categories that qualify for these health care benefits (Medicaid, 133 percent of poverty or less; premium subsidy, up to 400 percent of the official poverty level).

An Associated Press article notes the squeeze that hospitals with emergency rooms and community health clinics will face. AP rightly points out that half of the uninsured, at least, already are expected to get health coverage through Medicaid or some public program. Amnesty would only add to the number of individuals with such coverage — and to the fiscal demand they will place on taxpayers.

Further, AP reports how the health reform law cuts back on funding for community health centers and hospital uncompensated care payments. While these clinics and hospitals have raised concerns about the reallocated funds, it's not clear that no longer receiving monies from the government's right hand and getting it from the government's left hand instead will equal a net cut or a net increase.

However, as millions more people, both former illegal aliens and law-abiding citizens, gain health coverage, that will drive up utilization rates. More people seeking care because they are newly insured will place great pressure on limited medical resources. Thus, native-born Americans, legal immigrants and legalized alien lawbreakers will all potentially face a harder time getting the health care they need when they need it.

Policymakers would do well to consider the fiscal consequences of mass amnesty, beyond the politics of pandering.