Sunday, September 13, 2009

Was Joe Wilson Right? Will illegal Immigrants be covered under Obamacare?

I am as adamantly opposed to the current proposals for "reforming" health care as anyone, but the truth does matter. Like a lot of issues surrounding the proposed health care reform, the answer to the question of whether or not it covers illegal immigrants is not absolutely clear, but the preponderance of evidence indicates that the proposals for health care reform would not cover illegal immigrants in any significant number. This from

The House bill (the only bill to be formally introduced in its entirety)specifically says that no federal money would be spent on giving illegal immigrants health coverage:

Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on
behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States."

The Christian Science Monitor has this to say: "Obama was correct in asserting that illegal immigrants would be barred from receiving subsidized health benefits by language included in all proposed Democratic reform bills. A recent Congressional Research Service (CRS) report that looked at this issue noted, for instance, that to be eligible for help under the House health reform bill, “individuals must be lawfully present in a state in the United States.”

Does that settle it? No, not quite. According to "the bill does not include a mechanism for verifying citizenship. So illegal immigrants would have the chance to purchase insurance in the public option.." This assumes the final bill provides a public option.

So, would some illegal immigrant get subsidized health care? Probably. Very many? Probably not.

One thing that opponents of the proposed health care reform should keep in mind is that now there are laws on the books that require hospitals to treat ill people who arrive at the hospital, regardless of immigration status. That would not change under the current proposals. Providing health care at emergency rooms is not a very efficient means of delivering health care. We who pay taxes and who pay insurance premiums now pay for that service for those without insurance who get their health care at emergency rooms.

I have talked to nurses and others knowledgeable people who complain about the large number of illegal immigrants clogging emergency rooms. I know that it is a problem. I, however, would not support laws that would turn away a severely ill or injured person regardless of immigration status.

Another thing to keep in mind is that many illegal immigrants currently have private insurance. Many illegal immigrants have credit cards, own homes, pay taxes, and otherwise participate in the American economy. Nothing under the proposed laws would prohibit them from continuing to have private insurance.

I work for a non-profit organization that is next door to a public health clinic and a WIC (women, infants and children) store. The organization I work for also offers English as a Second Language classes and has other connections with providers of services to immigrants. I know for a fact that pregnant illegal immigrant women who qualify get free pre-natal care and WIC vouchers with which they purchase food. After the child is born, the child is an American citizens. The child then gets free medical care if the family qualifies and the family continues to get WIC vouchers to purchase food for the child. One may not like it, but that is what is in place now.

The issue of "anchor babies" and the issue of illegal immigration are serious issues. I support securing our borders and stopping the flow of illegal immigrants into this country. However, I also think that we need comprehensive immigration reform as was proposed by former President George W. Bush. The issue of what to do with the twelve to twenty million illegal immigrants in this county is a separate issue from the issue of health care reform.

On balance it looks like Obama is right and Joe Wilson is wrong. From all I can discover, the concern that health care reform would cover large number of immigrants is unfounded. There are plenty of reasons to oppose Obamacare; the immigration issue is not one of them.

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