The Case For Obamacare, Thanks To Undocumented Workers


The case that Obamacare—or, indeed, universal healthcare—is an imperative in this country has just been made by a group of undocumented immigrants.

According to the Los Angeles Times, a group for restaurant workers has joined forces with a community clinic to form a cooperative that gives health care coverage to undocumented immigrants—basic care for $25 a month. Over 75,000 restaurant workers in Los Angeles alone don’t have access to health insurance because of their immigration status. Why should anyone care? As Mariana Huerta of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Los Angeles (ROC-LA) says:

“Restaurant workers are preparing, serving, and cooking our food. So many of these workers reported that they go to work sick. That is a public health hazard for consumers.”

That statement ought to make everyone sit up and take notice. We don’t make health care coverage available to the very people who handle our food in the public realm. We guarantee that sick people will be involved in food preparation and service. How crazy is that, as a matter of public policy?

And what about all the other uninsured in this country, those who aren’t undocumented immigrants? Exactly who else are we rubbing elbows with, sharing in their germs, because they can’t afford healthcare—and certainly can’t afford to miss work?

In 2010, over 50 million people—one in six—in the United States were uninsured. According to figures from 2007, published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the uninsured included almost 12% of education and health care workers, 22% of food service and other service industry workers, and 17% of professional and finance workers such as real estate and (believe it or not) insurance agents—among others.

A huge portion of the people who feed us, educate our kids, sell us services, and literally handle our money do not have health care coverage. One in six people don’t have it. Think what that means in terms of how many times each of us must have exchanges with sick people every day.

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