Power Breakfast panel debates health care reform

October 17, 2009


Legislation in Congress tries to exclude illegal immigrants from receiving public subsidies for health insurance. Is that the right policy or would covering illegal immigrants actually save money in the long run?

OBEIME: I’m going to be in trouble any way I answer this question. When we talk about illegal immigrants, sometimes I think that people do not hear the “illegal,” they just hear “immigrants,” and that’s why sometimes there’s a lot of frustration. If a patient shows up at Wishard and has active TB or the H1N1 flu, can we in our right minds say that we will not treat this patient? And if we did not, how would we get rid of this patient regardless of where the patient came from? I don’t know which airline you could tell that, “This patient has one of these two conditions, we don’t want to treat this patient in this country, put this patient in your plane and fly them somewhere.” I don’t see how that would fly, OK?

But having said that, I think that if we had it written in bold that America takes care of illegal immigrants, we are setting ourselves up for trouble. I think we should not announce that we’re going to do that; otherwise we might have an influx. But at the same time I don’t see how we cannot treat people if our lives are in danger.

BRATER: We’re paying for this care, anyway. To think we’re not paying for that care is naïve. So if a patient shows up in the emergency room, wherever, hopefully they’re going to be taken care of. I mean, I certainly don’t want to be part of a society that would turn a sick person away from an emergency room. So we’re paying for this, anyway. But then the way we’re doing it is that the care is occurring in the most expensive venues, in the emergency room. It makes more sense to have a system that will make sure that there is a way to provide health care to people who need it and do it in the most cost-effective way. And that’s not in the emergency room. So I think it needs to be addressed. I realize it’s highly politically charged. But another way for me to look at it is that I think it would be morally reprehensible for us to even comprehend a system where we turn people away at the door who need health care.

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