Guy W. Farmer: Free health care for illegals, long waits for citizens

Although Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada told a recent online forum that President Obama's health care reform plan wouldn't include millions of illegal immigrants, I suspect that the liberal Democrats who control Congress are searching for a way to provide free health care for illegals.

And despite the fact that a health care reform bill introduced in the House ostensibly excludes illegal immigrants, it doesn't establish any mechanism to verify citizenship. In fact, a citizenship verification proposal by Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., was rejected in committee. Therefore, as the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies and conservative Heritage Foundation have concluded, the House bill "would open the door for millions of illegal aliens to receive taxpayer-funded health care."

In Nevada and most other states, illegal immigrants already receive free health care at emergency rooms (where they can't be turned away) and free clinics like FISH's Ross Medical Clinic in Carson City. Call me old-fashioned, but I believe that illegals should contribute to their health care and other public services, if we can't control our borders and deport them.

We have a pretty good idea of how much they're spending on illegals in populous Clark County, thanks to a fine piece of investigative reporting by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which recently revealed that University Medical Center (UMC) in that city is currently spending about $2 million per month to provide kidney dialysis services to about 80 illegal immigrants. We can only imagine how much more UMC is spending to take care of sick - and not-so-sick - illegals who show up at the hospital's emergency room.

These mostly Mexican citizens don't return to their own country for kidney dialysis because it's much easier for Mexico to rely on American taxpayers to subsidize free health care for their citizens.

"The federal government kicked the can down the road on the immigration issue and gave the bill to us," UMC Chief Financial Officer Brian Brannman told the Review-Journal.

And then the R-J asked a key question: "What about the humanitarian cost of forcing sick and suffering (American) citizens who pay into the system to wait for hours in emergency rooms because of the manpower required to treat non-paying non-citizens?"

Perhaps our very own Sen. Reid can answer that question as he promotes Obamacare far and wide. We're awaiting his answer.

• Guy W. Farmer, a semi-retired journalist and former U.S. diplomat, resides in Carson City.

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