Undocumented immigrants who fail to seek healthcare for fear of being branded as “illegals” and deported create a public health problem, according to a statement issued by the American College of Physicians (ACP).
The ACP says that documented immigrants already face great barriers to seeking medical care, including being under-insured, but undocumented immigrants also have the additional fear of being turned into the authorities if they go to the clinic or hospital. Not only does this increase the risk of infection to all Americans, but it makes it likely that they’ll eventually end up in the emergency room, acquiring care that is significantly more expensive than the preventive care they were too afraid to seek earlier.
The ACP calls for a national policy that replaces the current “patchwork” one and offsets costs of uncompensated care provided for immigrants. This policy should both acknowledge the public health costs of letting immigrants go untreated and remain separated from immigration policy, which “should not interfere with the ethical obligation to provide care for all,” the ACP says.