Monday, August 21, 2006

Facts get in the way at Congressional hearing.

"What I wanted was witnesses who agree with me, not disagree with me," said Congressman Charlie Norwood(R-GA) at last Tuesdays Congressional field hearing on immigration in Gainesville Georgia held by The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health.

The hearing was intended to gather information about the impact of undocumented immigration on the state's Medicaid program and health care delivery system. Apparently though, "information" was not really what the House Republican wanted to hear, threatening a witness when she failed to present testimony to support his views.

At one point he scolded immigration specialist Alison Siskin, of the Congressional Research Service, saying he was "disappointed" with her testimony and that he intended to complain to her supervisors at CRS after she said there were no studies to show "rampant abuse" of government healthcare programs.

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Siskin, one of nine witnesses, including Georgia state lawmakers, government specialists on Medicaid, doctors and hospital administrators, incurred Norwood's wrath when she said studies have been unclear about immigration's impact on health care. "The studies are all over the place," she said, adding, "There are not studies that have shown rampant abuse."

Norwood would have none of it… He knows what he knows, and he's not about to let facts get in the way.

He made his views quite clear, bloviating at length about what he expected to hear. "I know what they're saying in my district," he said, "We didn't wake up yesterday. We've been working on this for four years and I espouse the feelings of the large majority. They want this border shut down and they want it secured….Fewer poor Americans get Medicaid because illegal aliens get Medicaid, it's that simple." He added that "Illegal immigrants are getting onto our social system, and it is busting the bank now."

The CRS expert was not alone in her assertion. Rep. Hilda Solis(D-CA), the lone Congressional Democrat at the hearing said, "Immigrants use less health care services than American citizens; immigrants use emergency rooms less than non-immigrants, the real problem with our health system is not immigrants, but the fact the system is broken." Adding that hearings were just a "big family squabble" for Republicans. Solis said, "We haven't spent enough time working in Congress on this issue. We don't even have a full quorum to discuss issues to pass. To me, it's just a facade."

Despite Congressman Norwood's claims about "Illegal immigrants busting the bank", recent studies do in fact back up Rep. Solis' position.

In July, the health care policy journal Health Affairs published a study that found that undocumented immigrants are not the cause of a public health crisis defined by over-crowded emergency departments, higher health care costs, and lower-quality primary care.

"What Accounts For Differences In The Use Of Hospital Emergency Departments Across U.S. Communities?" by Peter Cunningham, a senior fellow at the Center for Studying Health System Change in Washington, D.C. looked at 46,600 people living in 60 different communities and found that the communities with high levels of Hispanics and undocumented immigrants had far lesser rates of emergency department use than communities with low undocumented representation. The study also found that the largest cause of emergency department overcrowding was found to be an increased use of them as primary care facilities by native born Medicare and Medicaid recipients.

This sentiment was also echoed by The Hospital Association of Southern California, an organization that represents 170 different hospitals in the state. Despite the fact that California has the highest level of foreign-born in the nation at 26.2% of the population, with 60.8% of them being undocumented, the HASC said that blaming the undocumented for the current healthcare crisis takes the focus away from the true root causes of the problem.

In Focusing on Healthcare Costs of Illegal Immigrants Draws Attention Away from the Real Problem" the organizations Vice President, James Lott wrote that 80% of all unreimbursed care that Southern California is due to non-immigrant uninsured. "… you have to conclude that it's the larger problem of just simply having so many uninsured patients that is a key driver of rising hospital costs." and that "in the absence of strong political leadership on the question of insuring the uninsured" it is hospitals and patients with insurance who are forced to pick up the tab.

Norwood's demagoguery did not go unnoticed in the local press. The Gainesville Times said this of Norwood in a Sunday op-ed entitled: "Closing our minds to facts won't fix immigration mess"

" Illegal immigration is a real problem that needs real solutions, but those solutions should be based on facts, not guesswork and predetermined notions.

The Norwoods of the world are merely playing to the emotions of their voting base instead of trying to act like statesmen and solving problems with their heads.

We deserve better."

We as a nation deserve better.


Pondering American said...

Uh Lord I am going to link this. What a idiot. By the way it would be nice if mre Democrats showed up at these hearings. This is a little bit more than a family squabble among Republicans. IF they are there and there are fireworks then the Press will cover it.

I still say the Dems could be doing more. For instance I did not support that bill on stem cell research that the President had to veto. However desite the odds that got out of a very conservative house. Why? Well I think because the Dems and the Repubs worked together. I didnt like that but it shows that this can happen in this debate. Just my two cents.

Duke1676 said...

I think as far as the Dems go (and those Republicans in Bush's camp) it's a matter of not wanting to legitimize these hearings and give them the appearance of being any more than they are ..a circus side show to fire up the base. The fact that this hearing was held by only three Reps - two R one D says a lot.

I think that the Congressional Immigration Reform bunch put the in the fix with these hearings from the start. .. Testimony from "experts" from CIS, "investigating" how the "Democrat Reid-Kennedy Bill will destroy the nation"... it's no wonder that everyone left the field to let the Tancredo crowd to play by themselves. No one wants to play in a fixed game.