Can Our Health Care System Afford Mass Immigration?


According to the US Census Bureau and the Department of Homeland Security, in 2007, 59% of illegal aliens, 43.8% of foreign-born non-citizens and 33.2% of the foreign-born population as a whole, lacked medical insurance. This has led the Hispanic lobby, La Raza, to demand that illegal immigrants be included in upcoming health care reform. But given the fiscal constraints necessarily imposed on a government which President Obama concedes is essentially broke, it is questionable whether generosity of this scale is affordable.

In Florida recently, an illegal immigrant involved in a car accident cost a local hospital $1,000,000 to care for him. He was not insured and could not claim Medicaid. While he qualified for earlier release, the hospital simply could not find a place to send him to, until finally he was shipped by plane back to Guatemala. Naturally this kind of desperate action always provokes the violin players in the media, who fan the staged human rights protests at the airport while the illegal health consumer is being forcibly repatriated. British Columbians have witnessed that laughable scene several times.

What is interesting is that the authorities are always depicted as callous and cruel in this melodrama, while, in Canada, protesters always trot out our “sacred” values of decency and compassion that the heartless government is supposedly tarnishing on the world stage by such actions. Do these protestors vigorously protest the lack of decency and compassion to people like my mother who died in agony on a gurney in a hospital Emergency room overnight while those seemingly freshly arrived in the country were safely in bed in the same hospital?

My mother spent 88 years working to build this welfare state, and when it came time to collect, the state had become an international relief agency for those who had paid hardly a nickel in taxes to support it. Hers was a generation that was ashamed to collect social benefits that were due to them. Third world immigrants appear to have no such shame. But this impression cannot be substantiated by data, because, like ethnic crime statistics, the hear-no-evil, see-no-evil PC government would ensure that such statistics were never collected. We may never know if the foreign-born, omnipresent in major urban hospitals disproportionate to their numbers, consume a larger portion of our health-care dollar than their numbers would warrant. After all, ethnic harmony must come before truth.

Yet some truth was revealed by a glance at the signs in my mothers emergency ward. I saw four translations (Spanish, Vietnamese, Hindi and Chinese) below each notice that appeared in English. Our other official language—French—was nowhere to be seen. If Vancouver is a guide, nurses here need to take a Berlitz course just to have some patients swallow their pills and make their relatives understand that the whole village is not entitled to visit their sick compatriot at once.

Is this the Canada that Trudeau was elected to inaugurate when he campaigned across the country to make francophones feel at home from coast to coast in their own land? It cannot be disputed that since 1990, when the era of mass immigration in Canada began in earnest, the crisis in Canadian health care has walked in lock step with it. Of course, the politically-correct always retort that money is available to treat everyone if only spending priorities were right, and if the rich or the corporations were made to pay their fair share. In any discussion of shortages, their reflexive response is that there is enough to go around. It is never a problem of scarce resources. It is always a problem of maldistribution. Nationally and globally.

The fact is, however, that societies like Canada facing severe economic and ecological challenges cannot be an unlocked candy store to the poor and huddled masses of the world. When asked by Lou Dobbs if there was a point at which, in his words, We (the U.S.) will have to make a decision between taking care of citizens and making a decision about illegal immigrants, Bishop Harry Jackson Jr., senior pastor of Hope Christian Church outside of Washington, DC, answered, There is a point. There should be a line of demarcation. I agree with that statement. (June 22/09). Obviously some Christian clerics have become aware that there are fiscal limits to compassion, and God forbid, there are left-of-centre governments that have reached that conclusion as well. In the face of strong immigration even Nordic countries have had to tighten the rules and turn foreigners away from medical treatment. They have discovered two politically incorrect truths.

One is that there are limits to social spending. Push the marginal tax rate high enough, and revenues fall. The rich have a tolerance threshold, as do the middle class, and the money from both has wings. Sanctuary is just a mouse click away for beleaguered investments. In short, the social democratic world has come up against its own Berlin wall and has had to find economies in the way health care is delivered rather than blindly following the path of chucking more and more money down a hole with little observable effect. Inefficiency is an insatiable addict for endless subsidies.

Research in countries with Nordic backgrounds have found similar attitudes to social spending. Harvards Robert Putnam found that in states that had a more or less homogeneous ethnic profile like Minnesota, electors voted for higher income transfers to the poor. But those states with ethnically or racially diverse populations favoured substantially less universal and generous poverty, health and education programs. Why? In a nutshell, people are more apt to want to share with groups whom they trust. And they trust people with whom they relate. Research in Australia by Frank Salter and by three professors at Monash University (Bob Birrell, Ernest Healy and Bob Kinnaird) seem to harmonize with Putnam's conclusions. When diversity increases, trust/volunteerism/philanthropy decreases.

The cant about strength or enrichment in diversity that is pumped out relentlessly by public and private media, the immigration industry and the politicians who do its bidding, does not stand up to these studies. Multiculturalists and green globalists cant face the truth. We are a species of tribes, and have, as Salter termed it, genetic interests. Xenophilia is a rare and exceptional disease, as it should be. The perverse love of the stranger cannot come at the expense of empathy for those close at hand–an injunction found in 1st Timothy 5:8 where believers are warned that anyone who does not first attend to the needs of his own family is no better than a heathen.

The second truth that Nordic countries have discovered is that even the late and hated Milton Friedman, the poster boy of everything thought evil by the left, was completely right in at least one of his observations. Friedman concluded that mass immigration was incompatible with the welfare state. A government could afford one, but not both. His choice was to promote mass immigration at the expense of the latter. My choice would be the welfare state, with sensible limitations on the use of our health care system.

Universal and free access to a two-year waiting list (a byproduct of mass immigration) was not the initial promise of Canadian medicare.

Charity must begin at home.