The Spanish government has reversed its ban on illegal immigrants receiving free health care. Now the question must be asked, should other countries follow in their footsteps? Many countries already offer illegal immigrants access to free public healthcare. France is the most prominent example. But countries like the UK and America do not. Recently there have been pushes on countries like the UK for the country to allow immigrant health care. This has been met with harsh criticism and opposition within Britain.
What Was The Ban?
In Spain, the ban was implemented three years ago. It stopped illegal immigrants from using the country’s free health care system. Instead, they had to pay for a special health care plan.
Why Did This Happen?
The reason declared for the ban was an “austerity measure.” This refers to an action taken by the government in a time of extreme economic crisis or instability. Three years ago the phrase “economic crisis” could be used for almost every developing country in the world. It is reasonable to assume that the Spanish government had no option but to take drastic measures.
Was It Successful?
Arguably no. The reason given for withdrawing the ban was a “saturation” of the accident and emergency hospitals. The government has released no figures to support the idea the move saved money. The emergency services could not cope with the added demand. A tiny minority of illegal immigrants signed up for the paid service provided by the government. There were widespread reports of doctors simply ignoring the ban. While other areas of the country went against the government policy. Catalonia set up their own system of providing healthcare for illegals.
How Did It Affect Expats?
Theoretically Expats were unaffected. They live in the country legally and still had access to free healthcare and private healthcare services. However, that said a recent change of law in the Uk means that Uk expats living in Spain will no longer receive NHS services. This means UK people who do live in Spain but do not work will have to sign up for free private health insurance. Luckily for them, there are companies like Caser Health Insurance that provide expats coverage. Therefore, they will be able to continue living in Spain safely.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Providing Healthcare To Immigrants?
There are a number of disadvantages to providing healthcare to illegal immigrants. Firstly, it immediately makes the country more attractive to illegal immigrants. Basic health care is a necessity and people look for ways to receive it when they relocate. This includes people who do it illegally. In 2014, illegal immigration in Spain was up 70 percent you can understand why they are trying to combat it.
Secondly, it puts pressure on the healthcare system. France currently does provide illegal immigrants with free healthcare. But a significant portion of their health care is paid for privately by their population. Therefore, they have extra money for an increased population. The same cannot be said for countries like Britain. The NHS is already at breaking point and adding care for illegal immigrants is only going to make it worse.
Thirdly, the public opinion is not there to support. The local population does not believe immigrants should receive benefits they are not paying for. They are not on the system and are simply draining the country of its already stretched resources. They blame immigrants, legal and illegal for the increase wait times. The lack of staff. The lack of space and the general poor service.
What Are The Advantages?
If you want the best reason, morally it is the only option. You cannot deny people treatment who need it. If we do that, do we even deserve the wealth our country has. If we can afford to give treatment to immigrants, we have no choice to attempt it. We should look at other ways of reducing costs. But ultimately, for countries like the UK, this would eventually lead to the privatisation of the NHS. That would mean immigrants would not be able to afford treatment regardless.
However, it would encourage people who need treatment to come forward. A recent UK poll showed that many immigrants wait for their condition to deteriorate before seeing a doctor. They are too scared of being found and sent back to their country. This reflects two serious issues. There are people living in dire situations because they are too terrified to ask for help in a developed country. Second, illegal immigrants can not be causing a bigger strain on the NHS as people believe.
There is also one more important factor that many people miss. A large number of developing countries are dependent on a workforce of illegal immigrants. They gain legal stature while they are living in the country. They may not be paying taxes, but they are adding to the economy, taking the jobs other people want. We must take into consideration that there are children to think about. If children are born in a country are they not entitled to free healthcare? This makes it their home country, legally or illegally.
Finally, we must take into consideration that many illegal immigrants have no choice. The do not choose to leave their home country. For them, there is no other option. They want basic human rights. They want to live in a place free of a civil war. They want to live somewhere with clean water and affordable food. Want is entirely the wrong word. This is not a list of things they want. It is a list of things they need. Healthcare is a part of this list.
How to deal with illegal immigration is unclear. Ultimately, you are dealing with a population who need basic services like healthcare. Even if the country does not provide it, at a certain point, they will need to be treated. As in Spain, it will lead to emergency services being crippled. Health care for immigrants is an issue that is only going to become more prominent. It will effect all the developing countries in the world, and there is no easy solution.