Health Care Remix Pt. 2: This is Not Universal
As I mentioned last week, I’m less than totally excited about the health care bill that passed in the U.S. and was signed by the President (with the added bonus of a crap-tastic Executive Order that will make it harder for women to secure coverage to pay for abortions). We knew then that the legislation was built in part on the exclusion of undocumented immigrants from any part of health care reform; new information from Facing South suggests that it’s even worse than that: while documented immigrants may buy insurance on the health insurance exchanges, and low-income documented immigrants may eventually be eligible for Medicare,
under the new law, many of the lowest income lawfully present immigrants will remain ineligible or be required to wait years [figures put it around 5] to enroll in the most affordable health insurance, Medicaid. While they can buy health insurance and apply for tax credits in the insurance exchange, this option may still be unaffordable for low-income immigrant families who will be forced to choose between paying for health insurance and basic necessities as they do today. Without the option of Medicaid coverage, many of these immigrants may remain uninsured and be forced to delay their care when they fall ill.
Or, you know, when they get pregnant or need reproductive care, or preventive medicine. And this doesn’t even begin to touch the absolute under-the-bus job this bill pulls on undocumented people. Beyond simply excluding undocumented immigrants–even undocumented children–from participating in federally-funded programs like Medicaid, the new bill makes it harder for them to get health care. Again, from Facing South:
The worst part of this bill is the restriction that prevents undocumented immigrants from buying health insurance with their own money. Because they are not allowed to buy insurance, undocumented immigrants are explicitly exempted from the insurance requirement. Unfortunately, this will not prevent undocumented immigrants from falling ill and needing health care. Thus the health care reform bill continues to allow millions in our society to remain uninsured and forced to forgo or delay care, the very thing health care reform is trying to remedy. [emphasis mine]
This is a problem. Only, we’re somehow unable to recognize it as a problem because many of us have unthinkingly accepted the dominant rhetoric of the U.S., which suggests that living in America without the proper papers is enough to justify the most egregious and dehumanizing mistreatment, including the denial of the right to buy things (with your own money, no less!) that will keep you alive. Presumably, the thinking here is that if we make life unbearable enough for certain people (tried both here and in laws recently found unconstitutional that criminalize renting housing to undocumented immigrants), they’ll just leave “our” country and “go home”, a presumption that is as ignorant and unrealistic as it is cruel.
Interestingly, on the day before the passage of the HCR bill, a massive march for immigration reform, the March for America, was staged in Washington. With all of the excitement over the impending Health Care Remix, the mainstream media found itself all but unable to mention or cover it, but one article from the New York Times managed to make the connection between HCR and immigration reform–but not quite in the way that one might have hoped. Senator Lindsay Graham, one of the co-sponsors of an Immigration Reform bill (that finds general support among left-leaning Democrats and the National Council of La Raza, despite being pretty problematic in its demands, as Maegan La Mamita Mala explains at VivrLatin0), breaks it down for us: shit ain’t happening.
Mr. Graham pointedly reiterated a warning that an immigration bill would be “the first casualty” if Democrats adopt health care legislation by an expedited process that circumvents Republican votes.“If the health care bill goes through this weekend, that will, in my view, pretty much kill any chance of immigration reform passing the Senate this year,” Mr. Graham said.
So, in case you missed it, the Health Care Remix not only pointedly excludes undocumented immigrants (including undocumented children) from being covered by any health insurance; it also likely shut down any possibility that the effed up way the U.S. deals with immigrants will be addressed any time soon. And why’s that, exactly? Well, Mr. Graham doesn’t say, but it seems safe to assume that the anger of the Republicans, Tea Partiers and conservative Democrats who didn’t want any version of HCR to go through at all will not have been sufficiently assuaged by the previous blood-sacrifice of throwing undocumented people under the proverbial HCR bus, necessitating this further denial of humanity. Or that the “progressive” arm of the Democratic party is using the status, health and livelihoods of millions of people as a bargaining chip to win their preferred political battles. I’m banking on some combination of both.
The Health Care Remix makes it a bit easier for some people to buy health insurance. But it is a long, long, way from universal coverage–bought at the price of the health of those who can ill-afford more exploitation.