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. the girl

    as usual they all lie

    September 10, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  2. rr

    just wait 'til the same people who want illegal immigrants to have drivers licenses and voting rights will soon give them tax payer funded health care.

    September 10, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  3. Tony

    CNN you may want to print Sarah Palin's response. Very well written and to the point. I was not shocked to see the supposed poll numbers jump. My favorite excerpt from Sarah's response:

    Our objections to the Democrats’ health care proposals are not mere “bickering” or “games.” They are not an attempt to “score short term political points.” And it’s hard to listen to the President lecture us not to use “scare tactics” when in the next breath he says that “more will die” if his proposals do not pass.

    September 10, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  4. cal res

    The Republicans offered amendments to for the SAFE program to be included which would enforce that illegal immigrants not receive subsidies. The democrats voted against the amendment. So while illegals are not included in the bill, there is no enforcement and therefore they will in fact receive subsidies. It is the same thing that happens with other services in sanctuary cities across the US. Without enforcement the exclusion is worthless.

    September 10, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |

    REp Wilson has my 100% support for calling Obama what he is, LIER

    September 10, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  6. an american first

    CNN – good work on the truth squad- now go get Rep. Wilson and interview him. Ask him this question, "Sir. We have done our research and have determined that illegal immigration will not be able to get any subsidies that are available to legal residents. Are you ready to admit that it was you sir that was mistaken when you said that the President lied during his speech?"

    Now that would be a journalism. All this other stuff has no meaning.

    September 10, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  7. B

    It was great to hear the President -Call Out- the ongoing lies perpetuated by the republicans and their smear tactics.

    They will pay a huge political cost for all of this unconscionable behavior!

    September 10, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  8. RealityKing

    CNN Truth Squad: A progressive joke on the America reader.

    Verdict: Misleading.
    The CNN Truth Squad is staffed and run by liberals trying to provide progressive cover for the liberal agenda. But most Americans aren;t fooled, as proven by CNN's lack of prime time ratings..

    September 10, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  9. Jim

    If they were not included, what was removed?

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

    They already get free emergency room visits, prenatal care and hospital to pop their babies out. He'll just have to legalize all the illegals and we the tax payers can pay more for them too, after all he does need to grow the Democratic party!!

    Obama knows he cannot pay for it with savings through Medicare, he just wants to cram this down our throats and raise our taxes later to pay for it.

    September 10, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  11. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    So the bill would shake down illegals by mandating premiums for coverage which would be effectively useless? Great idea for at least some small penalty for their crimes!

    September 10, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  12. Kate in SW Fla

    Right, so who is the liar? Why, the rightwinger, of course! A boor AND a liar. Typical.

    September 10, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  13. Don

    This issue is not so much a matter of legal wording as it of logic. I cannot conceive of a scenario where illegals needing medical care are turned away. The cost of that care will have to be born by someone as it is now through costs passed on from hospitals to insurance companies to policy holders. The change wil have to be that cost will be passed on from hospitals to government to taxpayers. I can at least negotiate with insurance providers about how much I pay. Try doing that with the IRS!

    September 10, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  14. a health economist

    People that think the Democrats' proposals will pay for health insurance for illegal aliens are suriously deluded, just as delusional as those on the left that think a public option is a cure-all to the problems in health care. The fact that it was a Congressmen that threw a fit is very disconcerting.

    Also, as long as emergency rooms are required by law to treat anyone that comes in the door, there is the possibility that illegal aliens will get care and the cost will eventually gets shifted to those with insurance. That's what happens in capitalism. A lose to the supplier/producer gets shifted to the consumer. The same goes for a tax.

    September 10, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  15. Jennifer

    To all those folks that think this bill would cover illegal immigrants, I have a thought for you....they are ALREADY covered for emergency medical expenses.

    When they show up at an emergency room in labor or having a heart attach, the hospitals cannot turn them away. So the hospital takes the hit and has to provide medical care that will never be paid back when the patient disappears and has no tracking information. But this is the same for the millions of other uninsured americans that are here legally. If someone has an emergency (as we all will at some point in our lives) the hospital has to treat them - so let's at least have as MANY people insured as possible so that our hospitals have a fighting chance at getting reimbursed for their expenses!!

    September 10, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  16. T Car

    Rep. Wilson – YOU LIE!

    September 10, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  17. Vietnam Vet(DC)

    Even with all the rebuke, this Knuckle Head from SC a short while ago after apologizing for his Juvenile behavior still insist that the bill would cover illegal immigrants, again he fail to read the bill as proven by fact check, I guess once you tell one lie, you have to tell another to cover the first lie. However, he need not worry , I think the people of South Carolina got the message that he need to be an ex-congressman.

    September 10, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  18. Question to ALL

    If 'alien residents' (aka illegal immigrants), are required to purchase Health Care coverage... how are you going to see to it that they do?

    Take it from the cash they have stashed? How?

    September 10, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  19. i want my finger back

    bull. if illegal immigrants get drivers licences and in-state tuition at universities, they are going to get covered by the this plan, with subsidies. anything to keep political power dems.

    September 10, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  20. keith

    people who let sound "bites" determine the breath of their knowledge on something as important as this , will continue to shout and be led by their fears.... slow down people read the bill for your self and insist that your representatives do the same and then call them to task with your concerns.

    September 10, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  21. Jennifer

    everyone is entilted to there comment let the man speak. My self working in the health industry most of the people that come in should just go to Walmart and buy a box of tissue for a common cold or go and buy toilet paper for diarrhea. why rack up a bill of an average of $200

    September 10, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  22. Scott, Tucson

    So why when the Republicans try to write into the bill a passage preventing illegals from obtaining health care at OUR expense, it's always voted down by the democrats? I guess the dem's don't want to upset a major block of their voters.

    Any illegals going in for medical care should be reported to the INS and quickly deported since by being here, they are in violations of Federal laws.

    September 10, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  23. Bob Trahey

    Problem with government assurances is that there is no assurance.The government screwed up medicare at first by initially allowing checks to be sent to P,O, Box numbers. Initially under Medicaid-the card issued in many cases was used by different people. It is an oxymoron when the government promises something. Just look at Cris Dodd, Charlie Rangel,Gov of S.C., Mayor of Chicago,Barney Frank, etc. These people were in lines of authority and did nothing to prevent this financial crisis. Why believe them now?

    September 10, 2009 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  24. Nunya

    Verdict irrelevant.

    Given that there are pre-existing court decisions that forbid many public assistance programs from making a distinction between illegal or not (i.e. you *must* provide the service to all who are here), then any claim that the specific bill under consideration doesn't support illegal immigrants is facetious. Because any provisions that attempt to forbid support for some subset (e.g. illegal immigrants) will be thrown out by courts as unconstitutional.

    September 10, 2009 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  25. Reagan was wrong

    This will have no effect on the GOP, since facts are irrelevant to them. Their primary source of information is Glenn Beck's brainfarts and WorldNetDaily.

    You cannot deal with people that have become completely untethered from reality. Just ignore them altogether and let them wallow in their ignorance until they become extinct.

    September 10, 2009 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
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