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And Obamacare won’t do much to help. Even many legal immigrants won’t be eligible for Medicaid and will be prohibited from buying coverage through the new insurance exchanges. Meanwhile, Obamacare will sharply cut funding for safety net hospitals, threatening the solvency of institutions that will care for the 31 million (including 8 million immigrants) who will remain uninsured. The effect will be especially severe in places such as New York City and Los Angeles, where nearly 2 of every 5 residents were born outside the U.S.
Scare-mongering about the cost of immigration has become a staple of political debate. We started our research on immigrants’ health because as doctors we believe that health care is a human right, a right that we too often saw violated even in liberal Massachusetts. But our findings indicate that economic fairness, not just morality, argues for immigrants’ rights to care.
Steffie Woolhander and David U. Himmelstein are internists, professors at the City University School of Public Health at Hunter College and visiting professors of medicine at Harvard Medical School.