The health care needs of an estimated 6.8 million undocumented and uninsured immigrants "has become the third rail in the debate over health-care reform," The Chicago Tribune reports. Some health care advocates have proposed broadening the proposals before Congress to include this population, but "fierce opposition has kept the idea off the table."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has "emphasized that illegal immigrants would not be covered under the current proposals." And the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has called for coverage "only for 'legal, law-abiding' immigrants who pay their 'fair share' for health care."
But "immigration activists say it is 'immoral' for hospitals and doctors, as well as a nation, to deny health care to the seriously ill, no matter their legal status. But proponents of tougher Immigration enforcement -- and others fighting to contain runaway health-care costs -- fear that providing such services would only encourage more undocumented immigrants to cross the border" (Olivo, 8/11).
The Associated Press reports Latinos are the least likely among the major ethnic groups to have health insurance through work and are watching closely the reform legislation in Congress. "Experts say health disparities among ethnic groups are great, with one in three Hispanics and one in five African-Americans not having health insurance, compared with one in eight whites. And as the recession deepens, the gap is growing along with rising unemployment and cuts to work-sponsored insurance."
Meanwhile, the AP also notes that although the House bill "represents the most comprehensive effort to date to extend health care to all Americans," illegal immigrants would be excluded. And "absent immigration reform and a path to citizenship, that would mean millions could be left out of the system. About 59 percent of the 11.9 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States have no health insurance, according to the Pew Hispanic Center" (Barbassa, 8/10).