Kevin Johnson has another great link: the Rand Corporation’s study on public spending on health for immigrants.

The report – which appears in the November edition of the journal Health Affairs – estimates that in the United States about $1.1 billion in federal, state and local government funds are spent annually on health care for undocumented immigrants aged 18 to 64. That amounts to an average of $11 in taxes for each U.S. household. In contrast, a total of $88 billion in government funds were spent on health care for all non-elderly adults in 2000.

About 1.25% of federal funds for health going to illegal immigrants. Is that really a lot? Some would say yes, but to put things in perspective, a major disaster would probably increase federal health spending by that much or more. Rand estimated that $2 billion would modestly provide for Katrina victims without insurance (not even all of them). That is to say, $2 billion would cover differences, not treat all Katrina victims.

The population of illegal immigrants has not dropped on our laps over night. They have been in the United States since the invention of the category (the 1880s). If anything, increases in health spending relative to them parallels general rising costs. And if the health system can’t handle an extra $1.1 billion, is it really working properly.

Aside: in other countries, I would expect to enjoy the benefits of their health care systems. Maybe not getting care for free, but in European nations the subsidies for health care drive down prices even for those paying out of pocket.

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