Seeking health-care help across borders

A Mexican farm worker gets a check-up from an Emory University nursing student in Georgia.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: The Governor of the great state of Nevada is in Mexico today. Jim Gibbons has been meeting with officials there to talk about trade and border security. Health care, too. How to pay for it when Mexicans working in the U.S. need medical care.

From the Americas Desk at WLRN in Miami, Marketplace's Dan Grech reports.


Dan Grech: A strange scene played out in Mexico this week: the wealthy neighbor seeking money from the poorer one.

Governor Jim Gibbons has asked Mexico to help cover the health care costs of Mexicans living in Nevada. And Mexico's Health Department said it'll consider the proposal.

Sheri Steisel: Fascinating. Every state in the country is going to be watching to see what happens.

That's Sheri Steisel with the National Conference of State Legislators. She says Congress was considering giving states $1.5 billion a year to help pay for health care and other social services for illegal immigrants. But that bill died in the Senate.

Steisel: States around the country are very frustrated, and it doesn't surprise me that states are looking for alternative ways to help finance the cost of health care, education and law enforcement.

So how much do states spend on undocumented immigrants?

Peter Cunningham's a senior fellow at the Center for Studying Health System Change. He says a recent Rand study placed the health-care figure at $6.4 billion a year.

Peter Cunningham: It's actually a drop in the bucket when it comes to the total money that's spent on health care, which amounts to hundreds and hundreds of billions.

Cunningham says undocumented immigrants spend less on health care than most other people. That's because immigrants are often poor, uninsured and unfamiliar with the U.S. health-care system.

Steisel says there may be a strange logic to Mexico helping lift the burden on Nevada and other states. It might convince Congress to finally pass comprehensive reform.

I'm Dan Grech for Marketplace.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...