Mass. Immigrant Health Proposal Shows Bigger Problems

By James R. Edwards, Jr. on February 2, 2010

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has proposed $75 million in the state budget to fund health insurance for thousands of legal immigrants. This represents a 25 percent spending increase, amidst a crippling economic recession. The Democratic governor's proposal illustrates some of the problems in larger issues of government health care and coverage of legal immigrants.

Related Topics:

During their first five years in the United States, legal immigrants are supposed to rely on their visa sponsors, often a relative, for financial support. Under welfare and immigration reforms of 1996, visa sponsors' income is "deemed" available to the immigrant. This is based upon the long-standing principle known as "public charge doctrine." This policy helps ensure that only self-supporting immigrants are allowed and protects Americans from unfairly becoming subsidizers of people who otherwise would never even be in this country. Of course, with the growth of the American welfare state and politically correct notions of "fairness," public charge doctrine has taken a hit. It has been hollowed out quite a bit and thus doesn't work as well as it should.

One thing this shows is the absurdity and danger of Washington's health reform schemes. Despite the slam-dunk election of Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts, the Democratic Congress and Obama White House seem to have learned nothing. They remain hell-bent on forcing their version of "health reform" on the country. Part of that legislation would expand Medicaid eligibility to people earning 133 percent (Senate) or 150 percent (House) of the federal poverty level. Medicaid is a government entitlement-welfare program, administered and partially funded by the states.

The folly comes in when you consider that immigrant sponsors need earn only 125 percent of poverty. Therefore, Obamacare will ensure that people poor enough to qualify for Medicaid will still be able to sponsor legal immigrants. In turn, many of those immigrants will most likely end up enrolling in Medicaid. Yet Washington keeps bleeding the "patient" (i.e., taxpayers) by pumping in more and more chain migrants plus giving more taxpayer subsidies to immigrants who should be completely self-reliant or whose sponsor should be fully capable of meeting their sponsored immigrants' every financial need.

Medicaid (known as MassHealth in Massachusetts, MediCal in California, TennCare in Tennessee, etc.) amounts to an unfunded liability for taxpayers. It, along with Medicare and Social Security, make up the entitlement program threesome that is driving federal spending into massive debt. Medicaid is one of the fastest-growing items in state budgets. Practically every state legislature wrestles with how to control the program's costs, keep state budgets balanced, and adequately fund other state obligations such as education. Massachusetts itself had to cut $265 million last year from MassHealth, including immigrant coverage. Gov. Patrick's proposal and the U.S. Senate and House health reform bills go the wrong direction in terms of prudent government.

If you enjoyed this blog, check out our other health care related publications.

Topics: Health Care