The article from the New York Times today reports on how there will be an exemption on the new law that requires documented proof of citizenship on application for Medicaid. The part that really struck me was a section in the middle:
“The new documentation requirement is part of the Deficit Reduction Act, signed by President Bush on Feb. 8. It is meant to stop the “theft of Medicaid benefits by illegal aliens,” in the words of Representative Charlie Norwood, Republican of Georgia, a principal author of the provision.”
The attempt to withhold care to certain populations is rather mind-boggling. The truth is that society pays for the care of these patients, one way or another. Furthermore, study after study shows that paying for whatever outpatient care they need is cost-effective…. you can give a patient 20 expensive medications for months and the cost still would not equal a single night of stay in an intensive care unit (ICU).
If these patients don’t get outpatient care, they clog up the ER. Yes, yes, I know the studies that show that ERs are clogged by non-underserved people as well. Sick people is bad for productivity, bad for the economy, and is a public health hazard. What happens if the government refuses to pay? The hospitals will take the hit at first, and they’ll have to bill those who can pay in order to make ends meet. If they can’t, they will close down, and not provide care to anyone. Eventually, the government will have to bail them out, thus costing more taxpayer money.
The evidence is there. Also see another article regarding a homeless drunk housing project in Seattle. It’s simply cheaper to take care of these people. It is a social good. We don’t have to like them, but we have to realize that by ignoring them and pretending that they don’t exist, we’re costing ourselves a whole lot of money.