September 10th, 2009
11:24 AM ET
14 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. Polar Bears Against Palin

    Ha! Another right-wing lie! Wilson, go screw yourself!

    September 10, 2009 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  2. Mark

    Why isn't CNN doing a story about the Acorn workers showing a make believe prostitute how to cheat on her taxes?

    September 10, 2009 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  3. Wake Up

    Of course Obama will get a bump. He is a great speaker...but unfortunately, vague on details and all lies. then all the uneducated, lazy and unwilling lap it up. This will bury america.

    Obama = Liar

    September 10, 2009 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  4. katiec

    The republicans, being totally reliant on lies, distortions, fear mongering would not acknowledge or recognize truth if it hit
    them in the face.
    I have never seen a political party stoop to the level they have.
    They are on their way to becoming our countries most
    dangerous, domestic terrorists.
    Out to destroy our country and us.

    September 10, 2009 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  5. Charles

    We all know that. But GOP and special interest groups just want to spread lies and fear. Because Republicans know if you telling lie repeatedly , then people will eventually believe it.

    September 10, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  6. G2

    Obama is weak. He should be trying to fix the illegal immigration problem before the healthcare problem. Obviously the illegal immigrants will participate in a healthcare system under the Obama plan.

    September 10, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  7. Rod

    Speaking of lying...maybe Joe need's to read the bill!
    There is not a provision that give's free health care to the illlegals! Good 'ol Joe needs to shut his mouth and get to reading the bill!

    September 10, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  8. Kelby In Houston, Texas

    Dear CNN "Truth Squad" (what a joke!)
    You posed a question that could only be answered in a yes or no fashion.
    Answering the question in a True or False fashion is confusing to say the least.
    It leaves to question what you are trying to say. Are you saying that the health bill will NOT pay for illegal immigrants?
    Are you saying that The health bill WILL pay for illegal immigrants?

    September 10, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  9. JimNC

    Why can't they fix the loopholes in the TAX code and the new healthcare bill???... Seems easy to me that if you don't have a Valid SSN Card/Number then no benifits for you... HELLOOO???

    Most Tax Paying Americans are just sick and tired of supporting the Illeagals... Fix that and all is well

    September 10, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  10. Santiago Virginia Beach

    Well, if they can go to an Emergency room for free and are "Required to buy insurance". Then, arent they Covered? Millions of Undocumented workers work here using Identity Theft and fake Social Security Numbers. Wont they be Covered?

    The Verdict: True, Its just proponents of the bills have their heads in the sands.

    September 10, 2009 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  11. pete

    So they will have to get covered, and pay for it? Thereby helping the economy, and themselves? What is wrong here?

    September 10, 2009 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  12. Reggie from LA

    IF an illegal immigrant "coincidentally benefits" from healthcare reform, i.e., show up in an ER for medical care, we shouldn't be losing sleep. We can't just let people expire or grow conditionally worse. This is the world's beacon of decency and such, is it not? What did Mr Wilson see in the "bill" and what specific portion of the "bill" brought him to his angered state? Are we so terribly concerned about "coincidental beneciaries" (you know, people we don' t consder worthy of treatment or just don't like) that it will stop progress for the better? Unfortunate that such immaturity becomes a totem for oppostion to a potentially great reform.

    September 10, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  13. Ray

    "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 residents."

    The truth is that the health bill *will* allow illegals to get free medical care.

    While the bill has language restricting care to legal residents, there is no provision in the bill requiring health care providers to actually check the status of the patient. This will allow illegals to get care because no one will be required to check their status.

    In fact, the Republican amendment that would have required health care providers to check status using SAVE was voted down by the Demorats.

    Its a nice end run and its the Demorats who are behind it.

    September 10, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  14. Enough

    Technically NO, since he will grant them all amnesty and they will become Legal citizens that the taxpayers can support.

    September 10, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  15. seebofubar

    I guess Wilson wasn't wrong. Big surprise there.

    September 10, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  16. gawania

    The bottom line is without the health care bill, we still pay the bill for illegals anyway. Health Clinics (free) services provide treatment when legals are declined. I wonder what is the fear of so many who voice this distrust of Pres. Obama, is it because of true fear or is this a disguise of disapproval of his presidency. The speech to children the health care bill, the policies on almost every term are met with one repeated message "I am afraid." Why I never hear asked and answered reasonably.

    September 10, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  17. Maggie Ferrenz

    I believe "The Statement" to be a little unclear. Were Marylanders jeering because they doubted the accuracy of Ben Cardin's statement or because they believe the failure to include illegal immigrants in the bill to be a bad idea? Parts of Maryland are known for their willingness to welcome illegal immigrants so I question the reasoning behind their jeers; perhaps Marylanders believe the bill should offer subsidies to illegal immigrants? I recognize the irrelevance with regard to the fact checking, just curious.

    September 10, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  18. Jackie

    So why was the heckler saying the president was lying when he was in fact saying the truth? with republicans we can never understand.

    September 10, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  19. carlo

    I knew it was false, but you can't convince these wingnutters. They are still holding on to the "secret hidden agenda", like its in coded language or something.

    September 10, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  20. Brig

    Obama ran as a centrist and goverrns as a leftist. He has relationships with unsavory people and disavows them when it becomes politically hazardous. The key is not what Obama says but what he does. This is an erroneous fact check since it does not account for the Presidents utter disregard for truthfulness.

    September 10, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  21. Enough

    Force illegals to buy coverage.............Ha, ha what a joke! They walk into an emergency room and get treated for free. Citizen with no insurance walks in and gets a bill for over 2,000 for 5 stitches in a hand.............NO JOKE, true story.

    September 10, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  22. OttoDog

    Why did Charlie Rangel's Ways & Means Committee (the ones who drafted HR 3200) vote down the Heller Amendment on a 26-15 party-line vote?

    September 10, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  23. Bill Sampson

    The land of "Jesus" rears its ugly head again.

    September 10, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  24. Esparza

    Illegals will get health insurance, it will be done the same way things are done in public school, you cannot ask what your legal status is when you register your children for school, they get enrolled no questions asked, that is how health care will work, they will get it they will just say they are legal and no one will check, people always believe what they are told they do not look into the real facts, I do my whold life I have been lied to, so I do my homework

    September 10, 2009 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  25. The black Spider

    The Republican party is in free fall right now. They fear this young and intelligent determined and out spoken president so bad that they are totaly confused on how to be productive in their opposition again to the American people. For so many years the only tactics they know and use efficiently is fear and lies and they use social issues like immigration and abortion to divert people attention from their real problems to get elected. That's why nobody trust them on the economy with should remain the number one concern for everybody.
    Now we are in the 21st century where the news is not monopolized or the press is monopolized.
    Even Though I am an independant leaning Democrat Right now, it's good to have a strong Republican Party to have a real debate in our democraty.
    The opposition should be on some details of the plan but not on the overall problems they themselves recognize which the president is trying to fix.
    Their so many thing you can oppose in the bill and offer amandements without diabolizing the hole bill.

    September 10, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
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