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Health care and illegal immigrants in America: why Mexico is the key

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In general, they receive better quality care than what they could hope to receive back home. Even though lawmakers insist that healthcare reform wouldn't subsidize care for illegals, US taxpayers in practice will contribute to covering the cost of their care. If Mexico had better structure – and Congress can and should encourage such self-help – perhaps the US wouldn't have such a burden on its own system. Instead, Mexican leaders, who often live like princes, prefer to shift the obligation to the US, and America is taking the bait.

Inadequate funding isn't the only problem with Mexico's system: It staggers under the poor delivery of services, a venal labor union linked to drug smuggling and selling jobs at public healthcare agencies, and a Balkanization of the government-subsidized providers.

In addition to the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS), which provides health and retirement benefits to 45.8 percent of the population, there are individualized programs for government bureaucrats, oil workers, the two electricity companies, the armed forces, and the extremely poor.

The multiple agencies and state-federal overlap of functions accentuate delays, errors, overhead expenses, and corruption. No wonder Mexico falls at the bottom of the 30 OECD states in terms of out-of-pocket outlays on physician and hospital visits.

According to the Associated press, "Mexicans will do almost anything to avoid a public hospital emergency room, where ailing patients may languish for hours slumped on cracked linoleum floors that smell of sweat, sickness, and pine-scented disinfectant. Many don't see doctors at all, heading instead to the clerk at the corner pharmacy for advice on coping with a cold or a flu."

Mexico's National Human Rights Commission has criticized the lack of general practice physicians, specialists, and nurses, as well as "the insufficiency of beds, medicine, instruments, and medical equipment in general." To make matters worse, administrative costs devour 10.8 percent of the nation's meager health budget – more than twice the level of Medicare in the US.

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