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. mkn

    So then, the President did NOT LIE.
    The apology from what's his name was nice.
    But what he really needs to do is say I was wrong the President was telling the truth.
    Until he does that his apology is meaningless.

    September 10, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  2. Michael

    HR 3200 is one of the many bills. Which one are they going to vote on??? That is the real Question.

    September 10, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  3. Michael I Hastings Minnesota

    As Obama pointed out ANY ONE can go to a ER and get treatment weather there from mexico or mars – and when they do not pay we the ones that do pay get to pick up the tab – just like we pay more because of shoplifters – the hospitals as well as dept stores will not lose money

    September 10, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  4. J.C. - Independent & Insured

    If our ER must take any patients by law, there is no way they can turn away illegal immigrants. The question is who will pay for their ER care costs.

    In my opinion, we should follow the immigration law, fine the illegal employers by the book, and use that money to pay for the ER costs incurred by illegal immigrants.

    As I vaguely remember, the fine is $10,000 to the illegal employer per incident.

    September 10, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  5. Hopey Changey Guy

    I guess it all depends on which part of the bill you are referring to when you say that illegals will receive no benefit. It seems that they will, but perhaps not the government option, but the government can not discriminate, so they will, but they can't because the bill says they can't, but the government can not verify if they are illegal, but their family members can, but not their illegal relatives, but the government can not verify or discriminate so they can, but. . . . . . why can't the legislatures just write a clear cut bill without all the contradictions?

    Verdict-still deliberating looks like they can, or can't, it all depends on which phrase you pick out.

    September 10, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  6. Chainlin

    But what type of proff is needed to show that you are a citezen? A goverment issued ID? California gives illegals drivers licenses. I don't see how you could prevent illegals from getting free healthcare. Even in the article it says they are recieving free health care now.

    September 10, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  7. Hopey Changey Guy

    End result-we are paying for them now at the ERs., which is causing some to close their doors to all. Solution-cover illegals and spread the costs throughout the country so its not just the hospitals and local governments with the highest concentration of illegal aliens who have to bear the brunt of the costs. Seens logical, write it in the bill that there will be special coverage option for illegals or foreign nationals, who cares?

    September 10, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  8. John

    Everyone seems to be missing the point that Barack Obama consistently used the term "My Plan", not any specific plan Congress produced by Congress. He stated that illegals will not be included in HIS plan. How can anyone say that is a false statement since there are no details for HIS plan. Is it possible an ultimate bill will force illegals to purchase insurance? Maybe. But that would not be Obama's plan, that would be Congress' Plan. Therefore, Mr. Wilson had absolutely no grounds for his disrespectful statement.

    September 10, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  9. Moore, Baltimore

    There are 35 million Americans without healthcare. An additional 10 million (considered illegal aliens) are without healthcare. Currently, whenever medical attention is needed, the Hospital Emergency Room is the point-of-care. The cost is paid by everyone with healthcare. The premiums issued by Healthcare Insurance Companies provides for money to Hospitals (considered ancillary cost). In many cases the premiums are 10 to 15 percent higher than necessary. We already pay for the 45 million people. President Obamas plan would bring this under control and reduce the cost to the average paying American, while providing a higher quality of care to those who are in need.

    September 10, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  10. Jose in South Texas

    I don't believe this at all. Who's going to enforce illegal aliens to buy any kind of coverage when many don't even buy car insurance or have a driver's license? What's going to prevent illegals from just showing up at emergency rooms without any coverage, knowing they won't be turned away? What about illegals who's kids are born in the U.S., which automatically makes the children American Citizens, but not the parents? Will the children be covered but not the parents? Obama is telling everyone what they want to hear, but READ THE BILL!!!!

    September 10, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  11. Frank

    Your so-called truth squad got it wrong. Truth is without it saying they can't get it, the lawyers and judges will dictate that they do get it, just like was done with Abortion. Your lies to support this corupt administration are getting too obvious.

    September 10, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  12. HonchoWarez

    I can't wait to soak the US government with my fake documentation!

    September 10, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  13. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    You forgot the 12 million loopholes. There are 12 million illegals that obama wants to give a 'path to citizenship'. This is the politically correct term for amnesty. So as soon as they become 'legal' they get covered. Hence Obama can say he told the truth, such as this distortion of truth is. Wilson's shouted 'you lie' may be inappropriate and disrespectful, but it's still true.

    September 10, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  14. Joe

    Would it be feasible to create a system where the governments of the countries of origin of undocumented immigrants are billed for the services they (undocumented immigrants) receive in the United States. After all the main reason people come here illegally is because the governments of their countries of origin are doing such horrible jobs of providing basic opportunities for their citizens to make progress. While it’s true that undocumented aliens subsidize or economy the US is also subsidizing states like Mexico for having corrupt governmental systems that leave many of their citizens in economic desperation and make it more difficult than in the US for them to move forward economically and otherwise.

    September 10, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  15. Moore, Baltimore

    Further, at present Healthcare Insurance Companies will not pay for body parts. If someone needs a kidney they are placed on a waiting list. This promotes corruption because body parts are sold on the Black Market to wealthy people who can afford the high prices. The money from the Black Market helps to finance terrorism. President Obamas plan would level the playing field.

    September 10, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  16. Dave

    Please do a fact check on the Republican proposal to open up purchase of health care insurance across state lines eliminating the need for a public option. Is the proposal part of any of the Republican bills and will the Republicans have a chance to put in front of the President. Has the proposal been already investigated by the administration and dismissed because it won't guarantee affordable coverage or has the idea been dismissed for partisan reasons?

    September 10, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  17. Andi

    The question asked in the headline is a 'yes' or 'no' question, not a 'true/false' question. I understand the answer is 'no', but true to form, this board will be full of posters slamming it and looking for hidden meanings and accusing CNN of biased reporting, as usual...

    September 10, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  18. Beverly in NC

    Wilson is the LIAR – a typical do-nothing Republican with no character, honor or integrity. He needs to resign. He disgraces the Congress.

    Both the House and Senate Bills specifically state NO HEATH INSURANCE for illlegal immigrants. Republicans and Wilson need to pay attention to the facts instead of being hysterical and spreading lies.

    September 10, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  19. giniajim

    Good report. Thanks for getting this out in the public forum.

    September 10, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  20. Ron In California

    The devil is in the details.....Obviously Obama can't explain every detail of a complex plan but come on...on those issues thta he did comment on he should have done better in explaining the caveats.

    September 10, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  21. Richard

    So Wilson was not only uncivilized, he was stupid and uncivilized. Sort of like the difference between an educated redneck from SC and and educated red neck from SC.

    If we are already paying for illegal immigrants in emergency rooms, then the bill does not initiate any change in that.

    Given the choice between illegals working in restaurants and using emergency rooms and illegals working in restaurants without access to emergency rooms - I think it is obvious that emergency room covereage protects the American population. Given all the scare tactics the GOP used about terrorism I am shocked that they don't see health as part of national security. Well no I am not shocked. Wilson just acted like an uneducated red neck member of the GOP.

    September 10, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  22. GOP

    No Sorry the Verdict is there is nothing that forces any Illegal to prove their citizenship and there are no verification requirements to ensure illegal immigrants are excluded from benefits!

    Obama starts a lie and CNN prints it as Fact!

    September 10, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  23. Ken

    I want to personally thank the wilson's of SC, the kevin's of OH, and the doug's of NJ for the double digit jump in Obama's ratings and the 6 figure additions to [D] campaign coffers. You neo-morons with your juvinile witless behavior and empty rhetoric are simply the BEST! Keep up the good work.....we on the outside love getting a glimpse inside the pathetic fantasy world of the rightwing.....and having gained a glimpse of it, most people with brains will indeed contribute to politicians that will help us all avoid it.

    September 10, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  24. Rob

    We are still opposed to this legislation.First he took over General Motors;then he tried to buy out the Banks;now he is trying to take over;control the Health Insurance companies.Mre socialistic ways-not democracy in action.

    September 10, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  25. Steve in Kentucky

    OK. Now that the verdict is in, will CNN start labeling those who lie about this as such?

    September 10, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
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