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Dec 27

Can capitalism be compassionate? A look at the shortcomings of health care and immigration.

Can capitalism be compassionate? A look at the shortcomings of health care and immigration.

By Brian D. Smiley December 20, 2013 influxproduction.com

IMG_5067Questions surrounding healthcare coverage and access for over 10 million undocumented immigrants touch upon the shortcomings of both the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and any immigration reform bills that are currently being debated. According to Harvard Professor and practicing internist Dr. Benjamin Sommers, the wide reaching effects of this lack of health care include exclusion for the millions of U.S. citizens, who are the children of immigrants, financial protection from economic disaster and limited access to comprehensive care (Sommers, 2013).  Even the children granted temporary amnesty under the Dream Act cannot participate in the medical exchanges set-up by the ACA. 80 percent of the undocumented immigrants who live in the U.S. are employed; some work in critical jobs like agriculture and manufacturing (Sommers, 2013).  When this important section of the U.S. labor force grows ill or otherwise cannot reach their vital jobs, food rots on the vines and prices increase.

Sommers points to disparities in the ACA that will actually divert money away from current state run low income medical access programs and make it harder for immigrants to receive health care (Sommers, 2013). He argues for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants to open the doors to Medicaid, Medicare and access to the health exchanges (Sommers, 2013). With the systemic loss of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. and the cheap labor that non-unionized immigrants give to those willing to hire them, it is clear why truly comprehensive immigration reform has stalled for the last 30 years.

A reality of the market driven, current capitalist system is that it requires populations who make low wages to prop it up. Much like the millions of slaves who gave plantation owners an edge on the textile market, European immigrants who fueled the industrial revolution and the current low paid workers that fill inbound cargo ships with cheap goods, the economic advantage of keeping an abundant underclass population is funding political decisions to maintain the status quo. A universal, single payer, health care system that is open and available to those who work in this country is one approach that solves many of the burdens. Some have characterized this as “Medicare For All”. In order to continue the step toward this reality, trust in the government has to be rebuilt. By strengthening the safety net for our neighbors and workforces, we may be able to embrace a compassionate capitalism and democratic socialism that leaves no one behind while reducing the bureaucracy and cronyism of our current broken system.


Photo and article By Brian D. Smiley influxproduction.com

Sommers, Benjamin D,M.D., PhD. (2013). Stuck between health and immigration reform — care for undocumented immigrants. The New England Journal of Medicine, 369(7), 593-5. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1424396859?accountid=32521