U.S. Health Care Reform: Lawmakers Focused on Illegal Immigrants

The discussion on health care for illegal immigrants continues in Congress. The lawmakers in both houses are wrangling over how much coverage to provide for immigrants who have settled in the country legally.

Some Republicans favor excluding immigrants who have been legal permanent residents for less than five years, as well as all illegal immigrants. Democrats broadly agree that illegal immigrants should be excluded, but many want all legal permanent residents to be able to participate in proposed health insurance exchanges and receive subsidized coverage if they qualify.

Latino leaders, worried that Congress might quietly cut back benefits for legal immigrants, have started an 11th-hour campaign to eliminate waiting periods for them in the proposed legislation and to cancel the existing five-year wait for Medicare and Medicaid programs, The New York Times reports.

It was also reported, the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce says that the various health care reform bills in Congress will lead to less coverage, lower quality care and increased health care costs.

In a letter to New Mexico’s congressional delegation and to President Barack Obama, the Chamber said the bills in Congress don’t address the reform of the health care delivery system.

“The various drafts of healthcare reform legislation under consideration by the Congress do not address many of the critical issues facing healthcare in this country and will not slow the rising costs of healthcare delivery and the cost of healthcare insurance coverage,” the letter said.

Specifically, the Chamber’s letter said the proposed legislation contains no incentives or disincentives based on lifestyle choices, that it doesn’t address the costs associated with the overuse of the health care system, and that it doesn’t take into account the problems associated with offering more people health coverage while failing to increase the number of doctors and nurses available to deliver that care, Bizjournals.com reports.

The Washington Post quoted John J. Whyte, M.D., is the chief medical expert for the Discovery Health Channel as saying, "Keep in mind that Congress, historically, has actually done little to control costs. In some ways, it has helped create a system, through its payment policies, that increases costs. For instance, reimbursement from Medicare primarily rewards procedures and pay for "sick care," not health care. It pays well for a colonoscopy, imaging study or balloon angioplasty, but not for the time to adequately explain why a test or procedure is or is not necessary, or how lifestyle changes can be just as effective as more expensive and invasive interventions. It has in the past helped cover the cost of training physicians irrespective of specialty choice and the need for particular types of physicians. These financial incentives have increased the number of procedure-based specialists, which in turn increases costs further. It's not surprising that more medical students want to go into dermatology, radiology or orthopedic surgery, which can pay two or three times in salary compared with internal medicine or family practice," The Washington Post reports.

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