Friday, September 05, 2008

Illegal Immigration

So the bills started coming in for the birth of our son.

It was a roller coaster ride, I won't lie to you.

It's a rude introduction to the American health care system when you realise you have to fork over significant wads of boodle to pay for everything.

However, the care we received was so astonishingly good - so head and shoulders above what we could have expected from the good old 'National Health Service' back in England - that you can't help but think it's a fair rap having to shell out for it.

The care might have been good, but one thing I've learned is that medical billing isn't. We went to one hospital and had one baby - yet we've received about five separate invoices from five different departments - each one lulling us into a false sense of security since we think 'that's got to be the last one...'

The medical billing proved to be even more mismanaged when we called up to arrange payment and found that $500 of charges were actually a typo. Fortunately, we hadn't paid it yet!

The cost itself is astonishing. Unlike the NHS, where you just sign off and walk out, in America you get an invoice telling you how much you owe and how much the insurance company picks up. And health care apparently costs A LOT.

We were in hospital for about four days. The medical care (which the insurance company covered) was enough to pay for an entry level BMW, with accessories.

Many people reading this will say: "Thank goodness you have medical insurance!"

Well, to be honest, that's a double edged sword in New Jersey.

While our baby was getting checked out in Neonatal Intensive Care, he shared a corner with a cute little Spanish baby, who's parents didn't have medical insurance because they were 'undocumented.' Because of New Jersey state law, the hospital still has to give full treatment and service to this new baby and his parents even though they will never receive a dime for it.

Which is great - they brought a happy and healthy new baby into the world. But it winds up with the Spanish family paying nothing and my wife and I paying (through insurance) tens of thousands of dollars.

It's because so many people default on payment in New Jersey that the hospital needs to charge their 'paying customers' so much. Take our baby and his Spanish neighbour. If each of their bills came to $15,000, but only one of them is going to pay, the hospital decides to bill us $30,000 to cover their costs.

A lot of people say: "Suck it up" because illegal immigrants don't make much money and can't afford to pay for insurance (even if it was offered to them.)

Well, let me retort with this:

A hypothetical salary in New Jersey is about $40,000 (the household income for two working parents averages out at about $60,000.)

After tax, somebody earning $40,000 will bring home about $30,000.

My illegal immigrant neighbour gets $15 an hour 'cash in hand' for working illegally. He has no tax to pay and therefore brings home $30,000 a year as well.

The difference? The native New Jerseyite pays for health insurance and co-pay. The illegal immigrant, thanks to New Jersey state law, gets the same level of service for free. Basically, he 'makes' more and is rewarded for not being part of the system.

Now that's hardly right, is it?

Don't get me wrong. This is one specific example in the wonderful, liberal state that is New Jersey. It's not so much fun being an illegal immigrant in 'bag 'em and tag 'em' Texas, where you earn $3 a hour and five families live in squalor in a farmer's chicken coop.

But here in Jersey, our neighbour brings home what a tax paying citizen does, but doesn't pay health insurance. He doesn't pay co-pay. He doesn't register his car and doesn't have to pay for insurance (and inexplicably doesn't get arrested for this. Often.) All in all, he saves about $800 a month that the rest of us have to pay - and gets away with it.

What with Bank of America offering bank accounts, credit cards and mortgages to undocumented aliens, the hassles of living under the radar have all but evaporated. My illegal neighbour has credit cards, bank accounts and a smart new iPhone (which I couldn't afford, even if I wanted to give my hard earned money to Apple.)

Now I'm not going to go on an out-and-out rant about illegal immigration, but I will say this. It's a pretty crummy situation in which 'the system' rewards you for breaking the rules. When it comes to immigration, though, that's how it works - and we've seen it again and again and again.


paisley penguin said...

I am so totally 100% in agreement with you. Many people I think do not take in to account just HOW MUCH tax paying citizens pay for people who are in this country illegally.

You are totally right that often times illegal immigrants get health care and other services for free and we end up "paying" for it in the sense of higher fees etc.

I really hope something cand be done about it soon. I know it won't totally go away but to reduce it would be so very awesome!

paisley penguin said...

PS - The baby is sooo totally cute!

Coffee Bean said...

You just touched on one of my hot buttons.

We are kind of square pegs in that we don't really fit in with any group. We homeschooled, but to many homeschoolers we would be considered liberal. We are Christians... and again we are probably considered liberal again. To many in our families we are over protective Jesus Freaks with an unrealistic view of the world. Sigh.

I would have loved to have had many more children. Fact is, I am not a good breeder and all of my pregnancies were high risk and incredibly expensive. We have had health insurance our entire marriage and sometimes it has been very good insurance.... other times, like now, not so much.

My husband makes a very good living. I have been able to stay home and things have been tight at different times, but overall we've been pretty blessed. We have some friends that live fairly close to us (and we live in a modest neighborhood) that are pregnant with number 9. One of the things that has been really hard for me to swallow is that they are of the no birth control set and the bigger your family, the more blessed you are. God will provide, right? (and I struggle with this Roland. I really try not to judge because I know I could be wrong) They pay $10 for a doctor's visit and $5 for a perspcription and they pay $5 to take their kids to the dentist. They are on a special program through the state. When they have their babies they only pay several hundred dollars out of pocket. They get assistance with food through a program for women and children.

We pay $30 or $45 per doctor visit, depending on what kind of doctor it is. Our prespriptions run $10, $20, $40 or if it is above the highest class of drugs, 20%. One trip to the doctor for my son when he is sick typically runs well over $200.

When our kids get a cavity, we have to pay 20%. If my husband needs a root canal and crown, we are talking way over $1,000. He's had 3.

That does not take into account the taxes we pay.

Ugh. It just upsets me because we have to pay so much more while others do not. These people's kids are all in sports and go to camp and there really isn't that big of a difference between what they are able to provide their kids and what we are able to provide our kids. Our houses are close in square footage... our stuff is nicer but that is because we take care of it.

Ugh. I should totally shut up. I really don't have anything against people that have large families. A lot of my friends do. I also feel it is wrong of me to compare... but sometimes I can't help it. It just doesn't seem fair. After all of our expenses during the baby years and having a child with a serious health issue (asthma), we just didn't feel that we could,in good conscience, risk my life by having more children or making it harder to provide for the children we already had. And there's the fact that when we were going to adopt (and we got so far as to fill out a mountain of paperwork) that it cost way too much.

I'm whining. This is an area that I really struggle with in my thought life. I don't know if it is a lack of faith on my part or if I'm just practical. Obviously, given our choices, I think we're just practical. I feel petty now.

Coffee Bean said...

I should clarify the family I spoke of are American citizens.

PQG said...

Roland, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Just think of all the $ you're saving because of the low wages that result from the vast numbers of The Undocumented. These lower wages translate into lower costs for many goods and services we all purchase. Unless you are trying to get into the ground floor of landscaping, housecleaning, or other fields that are now filled with The Undocumented, you're probably making out.

Of course, vast numbers of your adopted countrymen and women are getting the screw job but 'eff 'em. They were poor before the latest wave of illegal immigration and so didn't count. And now they're even poorer and so count even less.

Now go and read some Wall Street Journal or Reason magazine editorials on the benefits of open borders and sin no more.

The Chemist said...

What about people who are American citizens with exceedingly low income? To put all the "blame" on immigrants is disingenuous.

As for B of America thing, as far as I'm concerned the bank is a business like any other. Just because they ask for ID, it does not magically turn them into a civilian enforcement arm of immigration policy.

Unless you're prepared to turn this country into a carry-ID-or-die state, lets not place any more responsibility on banks for their patronage than any other business (grocery stores, bars, gas stations, etc.)

Don't give me any of that "enabling" nonsense either, selling food to illegal aliens is technically "enabling".

Roland Hulme said...

Coffee Bean and Chemist make very good points about American citizens contributing (or rather not) equally to the situation with the hospitals.

mre30seattle said...

I couldn't agree more on this!! I'm tired of ones that want the freedoms this country offers, but expect to not have to give a bit for it.

The government just needs to learn to say "no" to providing these freebies.

I'm glad that you put this into terms that the average joe will get. I think another part of the problem is those average joes that just dont understand their prescription drugs and x-rays and all those things that add up are so expensive becuase they are paying for someone else.

If only there were more of you to spread the word............

Thanks again for the great read and education.

Anonymous said...

It is ever so humbling to be making six figures a year and then be reduced to being one of the people on welfare...due to a bad real estate market.

Let me say how much I agree with you...about the illegals and their families being able to make so much under the radar and still receive benefits out the wazoo. (It is fraud..and we are all paying for it.)

So, when a tax paying citizen (we still currently owe the IRS over $30,000 dollars that we are paying on) like myself is humbled to the point of accepting food stamps and other assistance and I go to the office and there I sit in a waiting room with the unmotivated, the purposefully unemployed (because if they got a job they would lose all of the perks of being "broke"), and the illegal aliens who seem to get treated like gold...while I, a white woman, am scrutinized to the if I must be lying about something to be able to receive benefits. (I mean, I felt bad about wearing a wedding ring and driving a late model car when I went to the office.) just doesn't seem just?

In fact it seems so backwards.

And as far as Coffee Bean lamented about the large family and their gov't assistance...I understand her frustration, but as long as the family is not doing anything illegal (lying to get benefits, etc) her beef should be with the system that sets it up that way rather than the family who avails themselves of the help that is offered.

If God had intended for any of us to have more or less children...we would have...if you believe in God and his divine nature, that is.

What is odd to me, is that we had a lapse in our insurance...and during the 6 weeks we went without, I racked up an ER visit...and owed them some money.

I called to make payment arrangements with the hospital and they said I had to pay $200 a month...I asked for a lower payment until we got on our feet...they insisted that they couldn't do it. I didn't want out of the payment, I just wanted to lower it for a little while...

the guy got back on the phone and then insisted that I could just "go out to dinner, because they were just going to write it off."

Why didn't they take my offer...I wanted to pay them?


I think there is some serious mismanagement in health care...what it costs me with X insurance, the same procedure should cost you with Y insurance.

You know?

Okay...totally rambling...and if coffee bean should read this, know that I wasn't attacking her...just offering a different point of view.

My ultimate point is the benefits afforded to the struggling in this country should be offered only to those who are legally here and legally qualifying for the programs.

It irks me to need the benefits and to have to use them (trust me it is embarrassing) while others are long-time welfare recipients...and choose it as a way of life.

I am glad that our country has help available for the hard times...I just wish you had to prove that you had paid into the system at least as much as you were getting back.

Linda Margaret said...

I live in Europe now and I just think that universal health care would be, if not better, less bad. Doctors can't afford malpractice, HMOs are basically businesses profiting off ill health and the average medical office spends 35 percent of its time on paperwork. It's a bit ridiculous.