Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Health Insurance and Illegal Immigrants: Two Solutions

Should health care reform cover illegal immigrants? For libertarians, that's any easy question:

1. Governments should not provide health insurance for anyone, so it does not have to decide whether to cover illegal immigrants.

2. Governments should not restrict immigration. Then all immigrants would be legal, so even if government provides health insurance, the immigration issue is moot.

You might not agree with either of points 1 or 2, but you have to admit that policymaking is nice and simple in Libertarian Land!

22 comments:

Robert Arbon said...

Spot on and so nice to hear a Harvard prof say it! I wish I'd stayed and moved to the Econ department!

Michael Kitchens said...

True, indeed! The fact that Republicans are arguing over the details of the bills (e.g., how it will affect Medicare/Medicaid, if it will cover illegal immigrants, if there will be end of life counseling) says to me that they just don't get it. They are enjoying the support from people who are angry about the bill because they believe it will get them re-elected and back in control. In turn, they believe they can create a better bill. Neither party realizes (or cares) that gov't has not right to provide these services. Unfortunately, I am afraid that the "fundamental right" to have health care insurance has become part of the nation's conscious, and we will now have imposed on us a bad bill by the Democrats this election cycle or wait until Republicans gain control and recieve a (slightly) different and equally bad bill later.

One other point that you make is that policymaking is simply in Libertarian Land. That's the point! That is the intention of our founding fathers--freedom. Let immigrants come to this country. If we stop subsidies allocated to these groups and they earn an honest living, our nation is wealthier. In a free society and a free market, wealth is created because one only becomes wealthy by producing goods/services that others are willing to purchase. It's a win-win. (Of course, you know this as an economist.) My point is simply that protectionist and "regulationist" are all in the same boat. They want to protect us, but end up pandering to special interests, taking from one group to give to another, and reducing the quality of life of all.

Anonymous said...

Given that that isn't going to happen any time soon, I recommend selling green cards ( a 5 year green card for $5000 sounds reasonable, with unlimited renewals @$5000 each time). I also recommend requiring immigrants to have health insurance. Given our current health care policy it is simply untenable to have masss immigration without requiring such insurance. It would also make a mockery of anyone who says that healthcare is unaffordable (for anyone without a preexisting condition anyway).

Nathan said...

I'm all for immigration reform and liberalization, but having no restrictions on immigration at all seems a bit hasty. If there were really no restrictions, we could easily get 30 million immigrants next year. It seems like such a wave (especially if repeated in years 2 and 3) could cause a lot of costly disruption. Thoughts?

Steve M. said...

Yes, Nathan... I would like to hear Miron respond to that..

Michael Kitchens said...

Nathan... I think you raise an interesting concern, but I'd like to take a stab at it.

I think your legitimate concern comes from the fact that the illegal immagrants are portrayed/seen as a drain on society. This is in part through misunderstandings and misinformation, but also becuase they do recieve free health care and other subsidies.

With that said (and to reiterate a point I made in an early post), in a free society and a truly free market, this would not be the case. That is, if we eliminate subsidies, their participation--their livelihood--would depend on their ability to earn a living. In a free society, wages (a living) is only earned through a free exchange of goods and services. Therefore, their livelihood would depend on their ability / success at offering goods and services that we want. In turn, everyone is wealthier.

In short, I believe the argument is that in a free society, more people would actually mean more wealth.

With this said, I'd be curious to hear what Professor Miron says to this, though. I'd also like to hear your response. How does my explanation sound? Am I overlooking something?

Steve M. said...

Michael,

I think that your point about "a free society and a truly free market" is what it all comes down to. I often wonder about the effects that policies have on one another. For example, libertarians are always looking for reduced government. Over all I agree that this is the solution. But on a case by case basis it may not be true. A particular "freeing up of the market" may have an ugly reaction with another pre-existing, non libertarian policy.

BUT...if we take this into account for every policy then we will do nothing but stand still... so there is the problem...

Anonymous said...

Love point #1, but as for 2, Tom Woods made a good point on immigration. He made reference to the founding fathers' view of having a community based on like-minded principles and values. To say that we should not limit immigration in too hasty for me. The borders should be guarded against unchecked immigration, and there should be a limit of strict standards for any citizen of a foreign country to enter and stay: perhaps a thorough test on american history and law?

I also believe those non-citizen here now should be given the chance by strict testing policies as well. If taxpayer money is spent on ANYTHING, I would recommend maintaining a population that knows and understands how we became a country and what living in a Constitional Republic means.

Chee Heong Quah said...

Absolutely agree.

Didn't you remember that US was built on immigrants which possessed immense entrepreneurial skills as they were struggling to survive out of their homelands and into the Land of Freedom!

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