September 10th, 2009
11:24 AM ET
13 years ago

CNN Truth Squad: Will health bill pay for illegal immigrants?

The statement:

Complaints that those in the United States illegally would get benefits under the health-care bill now before the House of Representatives have been a staple of the raucous public meetings some members of Congress have been hosting during their August break. At least two people raised the issue at a forum held by Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, on August 12, and Cardin's insistence that "Illegal aliens will not be in this bill - period - the end" was met with a round of jeers.

The facts:

The bill, HR 3200, would set up a health insurance "exchange," in which consumers could compare policies and choose a plan. It would create a government-run health plan to compete with private insurers in that exchange, and extend subsidies for coverage to people who aren't already covered by employers or federal programs like Medicare and Medicaid. It specifically bars illegal immigrants from receiving those subsidies. Section 246, which is included in the part of the bill that sets up the exchange, forbids payments "on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States."

But when Cardin said undocumented workers "will not be in this bill," he appears to have missed one point: It may require them to buy their own coverage.

That's the conclusion of the Congressional Research Service, which issued a report on the topic. According to the CRS, noncitizens who can be considered "resident aliens" under U.S. tax law would have to buy insurance - and unlike immigration laws, the tax code doesn't distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants.

"Thus, legal permanent residents, and noncitizens and unauthorized aliens who qualify as resident aliens ... would be required under H.R. 3200 to have health insurance," the new report states.

Critics say there is no way to enforce the ban on subsidies for undocumented workers, since the Democratic majority in the House turned back a Republican effort to explicitly stiffen citizenship checks. But Medicare and Medicaid already require those enrolled to provide "a substantial number of documents" to show they're U.S. citizens or legal residents, said Henrie Treadwell, a professor of community and preventive medicine at Atlanta's Morehouse University medical school.

Treadwell calls the issue a "red herring," since many of the estimated 10 million to 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States are getting treatment at emergency rooms already. Doctors are obligated to treat people who show up regardless of citizenship, and most of those costs are being absorbed by hospitals and state and local governments, Treadwell said.

"It is certainly not just something that disappears," she said. "We are paying now for care that is not preventive, and we are paying millions."

Some Republicans argue that the measure has left a loophole for undocumented relatives of legal residents to be covered. But Treadwell disputes that, telling CNN that based on her reading of the bills, "There is no loophole currently." The language in Section 242 of the House bill limits benefits to family members who are citizens or legal residents, she said.

In addition, a widely circulated e-mail critical of the bill states that a non-discrimination clause in Section 152 would require illegal immigrants to be covered by a public health insurance plan. But the first line of that provision forbids discrimination "except as otherwise explicitly permitted by this act."

The verdict:

False. A new report finds the bill could require illegal immigrants to buy coverage, but it clearly restricts subsidies to U.S. citizens and legal

soundoff (221 Responses)
  1. Michael Hsu

    There's a big loophole to allow illegals to get health care... The democrats will grant amnesty to all illegals – making them eligible to get health care. That's why this article is double-speak – illegals won't get health care, but only because illegals will be given amnesty.

    The real criteria should be "illegals who are granted amnesty will still be ineligible for health care".

    September 10, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  2. Eliki

    Correct me if I'm wrong... but if anyone, be they an illegal immigrant or a hobo... goes to the emergency room with their pancreas about the explode or any "emergency" they cannot be denied care.

    Correct me if I'm wrong – but doesn't that mean we are going to pay for illegal immigrants regardless? And rather then paying less (due to preventative care) we will be paying top emergency dollar, via higher taxes, co pays, premiums and base hospital rates due to this?

    To me this is one more reason that universal coverage is the best option. We are already paying for it now...

    September 10, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  3. Kevin in Ohio

    Tell us please, "truth Squad", how the illegals are going to be checked? There is no mechanism for that.

    September 10, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  4. The Court Jester of Obamalot

    Perhaps you've missed the point. Do the US tax payers now have to wait in line behind illegal residents because they can buy insurance and continue to maintain illegal status in our country? Why on earth would they want to become a solid tax paying US Citizens if they can get everything a legal citizen does? What stops 12,000,000 illegals from forming their own insurance co-op? If there is no advantage or benefit to becoming a US Citizen then why would they? This has a significant impact to Immigration Reform and the quality fo medical service for the real citizens.

    September 10, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  5. cchance

    So far all I have heard from the Republicans is what won't work and what to fear. I have yet to hear their sollution to health care reform. During the Bush administration they never submitted health care reform but did do a good job of giving health insurance companies all they could dream of. They claim they are concerned over the cost of this proposed bill to future generations but during the last 8 years they saw nothing wrong in taking the national debt from a little over 5 trillion to over 9 trillion without the cost of two wars and 700 billion bailout add into their figures. I guess they figure if you don't add it in it doesn't count. I find them hypocritical!

    September 10, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  6. Emma

    We still have stupid Americans who believe anything that is said by Republicans. The only way to fix ignorance is to read, ask questions and make decisions. These stupid Americans went from listening to anger, what about the steps in between.

    Every stupid American deserves what they get if they fail to read for themeselves exactly what the health care bill says. Stop listening to Limbaugh and his cronies! They lie!

    September 10, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  7. Angie in Pa

    So once again the Republicans are lying to the people when will the LIES From Republicans stop? Havent we been lied enough too from those republicans for the last 8 years?

    September 10, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  8. Deb (long island)

    Thank you for the clarification.

    September 10, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  9. Val

    American people should do their homework and inform themself instead of hearing republican propaganda !

    No unievrsal health care system on that planet covers illigal immigrants ! It s a total nonsense !

    I leave in canada and illigal immigrants, tourists and foreigners have to pay the full price for any health care !

    September 10, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  10. sarah

    So we are supposed to learn to decipher between legal permanent residents, undocumented workers, resident aliens, legal immigrants, illegal immigrants, noncitizens and unauthorized aliens? No wonder there is so much confusion. The fact of the matter is that if any of them get health insurance, their spouse and children will also be helped. But with legal, red-blooded, American, gay taxpayers all bets are off for extending insurance coverage for a spouse.

    September 10, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  11. sharon

    CNN Truth Squad.........using words like "alien" , "illegal".........sure are very foreign words to the First Peoples of Turtle Island, now called the U.S.A.

    Of course all peoples that have come over to Turtle Island could be looked at as the above..........should we?

    If so, what color of card would be issued to them?


    September 10, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  12. Eric

    We're already paying for illegals, was the president saying we're going to stop? How would Obama even know, there is no bill and obviously the man is going to sign whatever they send him- but it thinking that that should lead everyone listening to his speech last night wondering why the man even bothered openning his mouth, lest his intention was to lie. Remember, lying when you don't realize your lying, well its still lying.........right?

    September 10, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  13. Rico

    Well, thank you for the detailed yet concise clarifications. Of course, people with reading comprehension issues still will not get it.

    September 10, 2009 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  14. John Gillett

    So Obama lied again.

    September 10, 2009 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  15. no need to know

    President Obama wants you who complain to read the bill. The complainers are wrong!

    September 10, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  16. Sammy

    AFTER reading the President's speech, I could NOT find a single thing that is wrong with what is being attempted...

    This could make GOP too crappy IF they JUST keep shouting like a party of Joes and Boehners with a NO but do not ensure that nothing wrong gets in here ..... I am losing most of my faith now in this party and leadership – by all means, if nothing improves and they still come up with leaders like Palin, it would be extinct in another 4 years (sorry)!!

    September 10, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  17. bess

    illegals health care now, and in the future, is called the ER.

    September 10, 2009 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  18. Bob

    rhn why did democrats outright reject repeated attempts by GOP to make this expressly slear and remove any loophole?

    If it is clear as mud, so much that it takes the overlapping of two provisions to reach a possible aanswer, why would Democrats prefer this muddled mess to putright clarlity unless they want the language to be ambiuous enough for future re-interpretation?

    September 10, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  19. Betty

    Anyone here illegally should not be supported by taxpayers, period. However, it is our moral responsibility to treat people that are in need, Washington, DC should present an invoice to the country with a number of infractions and deduct it from their aid. Perhaps this will encourage these other Governments to become more responsive to the needs of their citizens, rather than forcing them to flee their homeland in search of employment and opportunity.

    September 10, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  20. New Age Democrat

    I must question, if it's not perfectly clear in the bill, why doesn't Obama make it that way? Why leave the issue up to debate? Change the bill to explicitly state that illegal immigrants will not be covered. Seems like a no brainer.

    September 10, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  21. nick

    I think your fact check guy needs a lesson in basic reading and understanding what he read. AND, YOUR STORY IS VERY MISLEADING TO THE UNINFORMED MASSES..SHAME ON CNN.

    September 10, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
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