Monday, May 7, 2012

Immigrants and the public health system

The loss of rights is always gradual. Our welfare state cannot be ruined all of a sudden because citizens would argue a lot, but our welfare state can be dismantled gradually, piece by piece, so that nobody realises what’s going on, until it is eventually ruined. When a right or a service is banished, we often accept it as a lost battle and we devote all our efforts to prevent subsequent budget cuts… but the damage is done and, little by little, our rights disappear, even those which were so hard to get.
Some days ago, the Spanish government announced that immigrants may be excluded from the public health system. But why immigrants? Because they do not cast a vote and because, unlike children who cannot cast a vote either, they are regarded distrustfully by some people, who do cast a vote.
And, as always, in order to get popular support for such an unfair and dangerous measure, the Government uses the same old arguments: immigrants bring the public health system to a standstill, immigrants jam emergency units, immigrants shoot up medication expenses… These are stupid and racist arguments, because they are based on fake premises. And these arguments are not fair either, as we shall prove:
  • Immigrants go less to the doctor than the rest of citizens. In a survey on the access to public health system in Madrid in 2009, it is reported that 8 out of 100 Spaniards go to hospital every year, whereas only 5.8 out of every 100 immigrants do.
  • Immigrants spend 96.5 euros every year as an average in medication, whereas Spaniards spend 446.4 euros every year, almost five times more.
  • The only health service where immigrants outnumber Spaniards is the maternity unit.
  • In 2009, only 7.3% patients going through surgery in Catalonia were immigrants, according to the Catalan Health Department (in Catalonia, immigrants represent 15.7% of its population).
  • Immigrants and Spaniards make use of emergency services likewise, according to a survey of the hospital Sant Pau in Barcelona.
Therefore, excluding immigrants from the Spanish public health system is a step towards the privatization of rights and services. Afterwards it will be the unemployed (those who do not pay cannot have the same rights) and then retired people (we should give priority to young people, for elders are too expensive) and eventually the rest.
Some of these data can be found in the Anti-Rumours Network promoted by the Town Council of Barcelona, a very interesting initiative to refute widespread arguments against immigrants. We wrote a post about it some months ago.

  1. Announcement by the Spanish government that immigrants will be excluded from the public health system:
  2. Angel Alberquilla’s survey on public health services in Madrid (2009), including some data about immigrants and their access to health services:
  3. Barcelona Anti-Rumour Agency:
  4. Post at Delivering Data about the Anti-Rumours Agency:


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