Health care for all means immigrants, too

Any health care legislation being drafted in Congress should meet the goal of covering all people in America, including immigrants who are not citizens and immigrants who are undocumented. People in these categories make up a significant portion of the nation’s 50 million uninsured.

Immigrants are productive members of countless communities who help build viable local economies all over this land. They pay taxes. Many pay into a Social Security system from which they will never be able to collect any benefits.

On an economic level, denial of health care coverage to immigrants is a shortsighted and, frankly, stupid policy.

Unable to avail themselves of a comprehensive system of decent medical care, immigrants will continue to struggle to get what they can from hospital emergency rooms, which will pass the cost of providing treatment on to everyone else.

More fundamentally, however, denial of health care to immigrants is a denial of the most basic human impulses of common sense and decency.

It denies common sense because it endangers the health of the entire population. In the event of a flu epidemic, for example, will the virus limit itself to uninsured immigrants in a particular city? No. Viruses do not ask for insurance cards or residency papers.

And it denies all norms of simple decency. What kind of people would turn away a sick mother or her child because they lack the correct set of papers?

These questions don’t seem to bother the Republicans, however. They oppose medical care for immigrants for the same reason they oppose putting a public health care option into the new bill being drafted. Both would mean that private health insurance profiteers might have to pocket a little less money for their “services.”

We support extending health care coverage to every man, woman and child in America. In doing so we, as a nation, will be standing up for decency, for our common humanity and for our common health.