There's been a lot of outrage in the blogosphere by what state rep Curry Todd of Collierville said in a meeting of the Fiscal Review Committee in Nashville this week, and well there should be. Todd asked a state health official whether potential patients are asked to show proof of citizenship before receiving prenatal care. The official tried to explain to Todd that they are actually prohibited from asking for proof of citizenship by federal mandates. Todd then rather huffily said, "They can go out there like rats and multiply, then." You can watch the entire exchange here:
If Todd's concern is about what health care for indigent people is costing the state, he should be much more concerned about the health of native born Americans who are covered by TennCare. Care for TennCare patients who have chronic diseases caused by "lifestyle" factors costs the state many millions every year. In contrast, immigrants are relatively young and healthy compared to native-born Americans. Most have not lived here long enough to have become sickened by our toxic lifestyle. They don't require as much medical care, so covering them is fairly inexpensive.
Pregnant women can get "presumptive eligibility" coverage under TennCare to pay for prenatal care and labor and delivery. Would Todd prefer for them to get no prenatal care and deliver at home without medical assistance? That's very short-sighted, since the resultant child will almost certainly be covered under TennCare--because he/she is automatically a US citizen. It makes much more sense to make sure that child gets a healthy start in the world by providing adequate prenatal care for the mother than to have TennCare pay for much more expensive medical care for that child later.
My point is that Todd's outrage at people who come here and "breed like rats" is not based on fiscal concerns at all, because there's plenty of evidence that providing relatively inexpensive preventive care like "presumptive eligibility" for pregnant women actually saves the state money in the long run. If Todd had not shouted down that poor lady who was trying answer his questions, she could have told him that. But really, the whole point of the exercise was for him to look tough to his teabagger constituents, many of whom really do think of immigrants as "rats." They are just as pleased by Todd's outburst as we are horrified by it. So, I guess Todd can consider this "mission accomplished." It's so sad that this is what our great immigrant nation has come to.
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