Thursday, April 17, 2008

TPH: The Need of Our Own

A Political Hoedown Special Edition

Disclaimer: The opinions of Hooper McFinney are his own, and do not reflect yours, so don't worry. You won't get a mild case of intolerance from reading the following.

I read an interesting article in today's Chicago Tribune (credited to the LA Times, by Anna Gorman): "Illegal immigrant's case raises transplant issues." Ana Puente, the article tells us, is waiting for her fourth liver transplant. She received her first as an infant and other two in 1989 and 1998, all at UCLA Medical Center. The "approximate cost for a liver transplant and first-year follow-up," according to the article, is $490,000.

Ana is also an illegal immigrant. Does anyone else see something wrong with this picture?

To preface, I am not a heartless monster who thinks a child in need should be denied care. We need medical safety nets in place to make sure that children of all stripes are provided with responsible pediatric attention. I'd of course argue that the children of the wealthy deserve the coverage, but shouldn't be eligible, just like the requirements certain schools have regarding scholarships. The redistribution of wealth, as some Democrats might say, to the youth of this country is a finer thing than broad welfare spending on able-bodied adults. I digress, though.

What we're faced with is slap in the face, a people - and yes, I will stereotype and generalize, and to be sure, I'm talking about illegal Hispanic immigrants - full of a skewed sense of entitlement. Puente was quoted as saying, "It doesn't matter if I'm undocumented...they should take care of me at UCLA for the rest of my life because I've been there since I was a baby."

The waiting list for liver transplants in California alone is 3,700 people long, and only 767 transplants were performed in 2007. As many as 75 of those were for non-US citizens, the number for illegals unavailable.

We have a health care crisis in our country, no one denies it. People go without or with too little because of insurance, medicinal availability or full patient dockets at public hospitals. While the crisis is not necessarily widespread, it is still pervasive and threatens millions of people with, at the least, inadequate care. Why then are we so eager to give our services, our time, our tax dollars and our medicine to people who have violated federal law to be here?

I understand the "people are people" argument put forward by Dr. Michael Shapiro. "When you make an incision in an organ donor, you don't find little American flags planted on their organs." If you come to this country legally and get placed on a donor list, but your citizenship status is Iranian, you shouldn't be denied because you aren't a US citizen. But you're here legally, you went through the right channels; you didn't swim under them.

The executive director of NumbersUSA, Roy Beck, was right when he said transplants are about rationing. It's a needs-based system, but one that should also have built in it a legality component for those competent enough to seek their own health care. Basically, if you are in your twenties, like the two illegal immigrants in the article who are awaiting further transplants, there's a reason you're kicked off the state health care bill. You are old enough to make any decision you want, and perhaps the first one is to go home.

Home being, in these cases, Mexico. Seek its donor lists, wait with your countrymen, allow our citizens who paid for your livers - plural - to get one of their own, because they deserve it more than you. I know you couldn't choose where you were born, that those of us in the US don't realize how good we have it. It's a foregone conclusion!

But if you want to stay here, to take our benefits without putting anything else in the pot, how dare you demand our service.

Jose Lopez, the other illegal 20-year-old in the article awaiting another transplant, said, "You can't just leave a person to die. That's pretty much what they're telling me: 'You're illegally here. We're just gonna let you die.'"

Damn you for placing that burden on us! For putting the responsibility of your life at our feet! The sword of human dignity cuts both ways. If you want to live, don't say it's our ethical imperative to provide that life; man up! Run back across the border, apply for a worker visa, for citizenship or stay there and use your own nation's health care system.

It is not the responsibility of the United States to care for the world. I'm no isolationist, but on this there can be no argument. We have to order our own house, heal our own people who are in dire straights. The plight of a Mexican child with a bum kidney or livery might be heart-rending to hear, but if it's the difference between them and the child of an Ohio steelworker, or a Dakotan farmer or a Maine fisherman, there's no choice. I place us before them.

"Selfish" easily describes that action, but it's a small word for this, and makes the action small by relation. But this isn't a kid in a playground pouting and taking his ball home; it has to do with protecting the health, welfare and future of a whole nation. The more we allow programs like Medi-Cal, which seems to be a loophole program letting illegals get medical service at the cost of the state, to prosper, the less service we offer our own.

Think of it this way. Ana Puente, conservatively, has cost the state of California at least $1,000,000 (unadjusted) over the last two decades, Jose Lopez a little less. These two - just two - illegal immigrants by the end of the year, if all goes to plan, will have spent over $2,500,000 overall in California-taxpayer money by manipulating the structure of state health care systems. Illegal immigrants, mind you.

California has a program set up to provide quality health services for the poor, exactly who need the benefit. Medi-Cal in theory is great, but in at least this instance tragically flawed if it allows the downtrodden of our country to be beaten into the dust even more by those flagrantly ignoring federal law to seek our superior medical capabilities. Medical service that should be intended for the truly less fortunate of
our country, not Felipe Calderon's or Alvaro Colom Caballeros' or Antonio Saca's.

I get frustrated with people who demand we treat the 12 million illegals as though they were already citizens when we have our own citizens dying from lack of the same medicine these illegals are utilizing. The economic benefit of cheap, head-down-cash-only labor does not outweigh the suffering of our own people. Again, it's a sense of entitlement, that because we are the "land of the free," that means it's free for any to walk all over and abuse.

Some argue it's our Christian duty to provide this much-needed care to the "undocumented," but not all taxpayers are Christian. If an organization independent of our state, local and federal governments wants to provide funding in a private clinic setting for illegal workers at no cost to the taxpayers, or detriment to poor US citizens, more power to them. That's one great thing about our country, the amount of private giving. Our charities do a great job complementing Federal programs and aid. Let's have them take a larger role.

But I do not see how, in clear conscience, we can continue to provide medical benefits to illegals above and beyond what we give our own citizens.

The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine's ethics department chair, Arthur Caplan, stated, "Physicians and institutions do have a duty to these patients once they transplanted them. . . . Insurance running out is no excuse for abandoning them." The latter statement is correct, but greater need is an excuse. The need of our own sick and dying.

How can we lead the world, like all politicians preach we will if only you vote for them, if our own country has its very foundations crumbling due to disease and avoidable medical calamity?



Jim Jubilee said...

That's a thin line, but I think you make some very good arguments. Now, what can we do about it? What's the next step? Is this specific to California or are there cases like this across the U.S. Should we be writing our congressmen/women?

Blogging can't save the world, so lead the path and tell us what to do to take this to the next level.

The Den of Mystery said...

Rhode Island came under fire a few years back when its governor threatened the elimination of coverage for 3,000 children of illegal aliens. They were covered by a "Medi-Cal"-type program granting health care to low income families, RIte Care. The proposal would've freed up $4mm in state funding.

These are not isolated cases, nor is the debate limited to health care. California is a prime example for most facets of the immigration debate due to its massive Hispanic population, medical services being the most prominent topic after bilingual education.

I'd say research more what your state offers illegals. To completely rescind all aid would be, in my mind, amazingly cold. I can see treating them, but then informing INS and having them deported. Perhaps this is a great way to foster better health care communication between the US and Mexico. But see what your state does.

There are government mandates that state all emergency departments are forced to give care to anyone regardless of citizenship or severity of illness, who walks in. To get around this requires federal legislative change, so it would be easier to focus the plans like Medi-Cal and RIte Care, to get them working for our native poor, sick and destitute.

If our country looks less attractive to freeloaders because our laws are tighter, that might help curb the appeal of illegally crossing over for no-charge services.


Anonymous said...

can we stop the racism? they are undocumented residents... not 'aliens' unless you are refeering to the jetsons, then we could begin a debate

I personally find the word 'alien' offensive when applied to individuals, especially to children - an alien to me is someone from space

if a good old irish immigrant is working in a pub downtown and dosen't have paperwork he is just as illegal as the hispanic farmer working the fields polluted with chemicals and fertilizer that ends up in the groundwater that probably created the genetic mutations that their poor children are suffering with and need to go to the hospital for...we are luck to live in pretty subburbs surrounded by a city that is kept running and was founded by the very 'illegal' immigrants aka our ancestors that came to america and took the land from the natives

apologies for the run-on sentance, I won't correct it when I go home tonight

peace out
from the girl on the left, or is it the right?

JMC said...

I find it pretty frustrating when people take statements about illegal immigrants and spin it to be about racism. Regardless of their country of origin, if someone migrates to this country the legal way, I’ll welcome them with open arms and consider them American as any other. I have a huge problem with people who decide the rules don’t apply to them and waltz right in while their own countrymen are putting in the time and effort to come to this country legally. Do I want more people coming into the county who, by their very means of entry, demonstrate that they will only choose to obey the laws that are convenient for them? Absolutely not.
While it is true that most American citizens are not ultimately native to this country, we can not use crimes of the past to excuse crimes of the present. If we insist on doing so, society will inevitably boil down to its lowest common denominator – with each generation’s mistakes being a justification for the next generation’s continued wrong doing.
It is unfortunate that many people do allow the issue of illegal immigration to stir up negative thoughts about an entire race or ethnic group. Racism is wrong but arguments about racism can not be used to obscure the fact that illegally entering the country is a crime. Amid the politically correct cries of tolerance people seem to forget that tolerance of a bad thing is bad. Tolerance of crime can only lead to anarchy.

The Den of Mystery said...

can we stop the racism? they are undocumented residents... not 'aliens' unless you are refeering to the jetsons, then we could begin a debate

I personally find the word 'alien' offensive when applied to individuals, especially to children - an alien to me is someone from space

Though JMC touched on it, let's take a moment to clear something up.

From Webster's:

Main Entry: Alien
Function: noun
Date: 14th century
1: a person of another family, race, or nation
2: a foreign-born resident who has not been naturalized and is still a subject or citizen of a foreign country; broadly : a foreign-born citizen
3: extraterrestrial
4: exotic

I know several people here on student visas from India. Their official title, as far as the U.S. government is concerned, is "resident alien." It's a technical term, albeit one that's been co-opted by science fiction. But it's been used to describe a foreigner long before we started using it in reference to little green men.

And while Hooper did generalize about Hispanics, he's not racist. He's right. All he did was state the obvious. He pointed out Hispanic illegal aliens because, like it or not, they are the largest group exploiting our lax immigration laws. We're not suffering a deulge of Swedes. If we were, I'm sure Hooper would have pointed that out instead.


The Den of Mystery said...

I can't see a thing over all these damn Swedes!


Matthew Hunter said...

How many livers buy one gun?

I challenge Mr. McFinney to look at the underside of his toaster, television, or practically anything else in his home to see the extent to which he himself is intricately tied up with things that come across national borders.

While the price tag for one--let alone four--liver transplants may seem alarming, we should consider the costs of healthcare in terms of total costs of global trade. The free movement of people and capital is an integral part of Capitalism. Healthcare for the workforce, in all its ambiguous shades of legality, comprises a portion of our economy's expenses. Let's examine the scale of that outlay.

Medi-Cal is a program of the State of California, so let's start our investigation there. A review of California's financial reports indicates that state had total FY 2006 expenses of $1.9 X 10^11. The IRS Form 1040 instructions that I've just pulled out of my recycling bin indicate that federal government had total FY 2006 outlays of $2.7 x 10^12. The Bureau of Economic Affairs recently calculated the United States' Gross Domestic Product at $1.4 x 10^13.

A scientist's eye for scale is necessary here to show the foolishness of examining healthcare outlays outside of the context of the total economic output.

Using a slightly inappropriate colloquialism to describe Hooper's interest in the bill that the taxpayers are footing: focusing on the cost of healthcare for undocumented workers is pennywise but pound foolish.

I invite Mr. McFinney to reply to this letter with an examination of the cost of one day's deployment of the United States Army, and to give us the cost of deployment in terms of liver transplants. Let's find out where our money is really going!

JMC said...

I was reading closely until you said "pennywise." After that all I could think about was evil clowns...

The Den of Mystery said...

Matthew Hunter,

(First, let's not derail the topic with Iraq-related queries.)

You raise a valid point. I have items from much of East Asia, Latin America, Europe, India and of course, the US of A in my house. I am a fan of Capitalism, and of course understand that built into the industries of nations is the cost of the worker, from their keyboard to the carpal tunnel it gives their wrist to the retirement program they utilize.

But ah...we are arguing apples and pie. Or maybe apples and a pie recipe. You see the apples as a part of the greater pie, an integral ingredient that we cannot ignore and that must be taken into the context of the whole. I see the apples, too.

But I have the recipe in front of me, and it calls for a certain type of apple. (No, I'm not going to call it a freedom apple.) It calls for the apples I paid for already, that come from trees my uncle planted twenty years ago and has been tending to for just as long, that his kids have been tending. Without our use, they go bad, they fall and get crushed under lawnmower wheels, become food for animals, become forgotten as their intended purpose: an integral ingredient in our pie.

Other apples are being used instead. They're from the supermarket, grown by someone not caring how our pie turns out but who just wants to get their apples in the mix. They're cheaper, look a little different, but we have varieties like theirs that are grown in our orchard. Doesn't matter, right?

But we still are wasting our apples.

I know that was probably grueling to read, belaboring the point and a bit simplistic. The point, though, should be obvious.

I don't care that, when compared with the suffering of our own native population, other countries have poor health care systems and cannot heal the wounds of their people. I get that we've got it good here, better than most, but our house still isn't in order. We have people living in conditions and suffering with afflictions worse than those illegally crossing into our country and taking advantage of our generosity.

Generosity that goes to waste on our own people.

We are killing our own people, to help strangers. This sounds nationalistic because it is. I make no bones about that, nor did I in the editorial.

Us first, them second. When we've gotten to the point that our low-income health care support systems actually benefit all the low-to-no income legal and naturalized citizens, then start rolling out the red carpet for people who violated national law to be here.

(And no we-took-this-land-from-the-Indians garbage. It's hundreds of years old, we know we acted like jerks, but history judges us harsher than the vikings or the Romans or the Persians or the Chinese because of "enlightened thinking," as though slave-trading Europeans were some paragons of culture. We conquered this land - end of story. It was an unconventional war, but certainly the nation forged during it has become all too familiar with such conflict.)

Your point, Matthew Hunter, is still valid were we arguing the economic merit of keeping our lowest, cheapest and least-legal workforce healthy enough to provide Wal-Mart-priced goods for the cupboard and and cabinet.