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. steven alexander

    Thank you CNN for beiing the "Jack Webb just the facts and only the facts" of the media. You are the only true fare and balanced news media organization out there, unlike the one that claims to be but clearly is not. These articles from the truth squad are most helpful to those of us that do not have the time to wade through the mountians of dcuments to find out what they really say. Continue to find the truth and report on it without bias to any position, werever it leads.

    September 10, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  2. justasking

    So where's the cost saving here where in fact illegals can still go to the ER? And yet we still pay for them? What is really is this bill's purpose?

    September 10, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  3. panem et circenses, but CNN won't post

    US law also specifically states that you can't enter the US without proper authorization...we see how well that works out when there isn't enforcement.

    September 10, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  4. Debby

    What do you mean false CNN they are getting covered already so Treadwell is right. Well Americans have to buy into it also they aren't getting covered for free. Its called the affordable health care plan not free health care. So illegals will be covered if they pay for it at a low price which means more and more people swarming into this country and less and less doctors to help us.

    September 10, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  5. Johnny5

    Seems like Joe Wilson didn't do his research before rudely accusing the president of falsehoods... oh wait, he's a Republican, guess I should have expected that!

    September 10, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  6. Artie

    Not when its on the table . It will creep in when the libs decide to include it in the chipping away process( vote buying)!

    September 10, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  7. hippieprof

    I am curious how illegal aliens would even go about applying for insurance – would they not need to present documents – which they by definition would not have? Also – are not illegal alias pretty careful about putting themselves into situations where their lack of documentation might be discovered?

    This issue is indeed a red herring.....

    September 10, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  8. jm

    At least be truethful about it CNN. Under this plan, you won't be asked to show proof of citizenship to get the coverage and Illegeals will be required to purchase health insurance. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out they will be covered by this program. Simple logic tells you that.

    September 10, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  9. Terry from Texas

    For those who did not read all of the article, the last paragraph reads: "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."

    Can Conservative voters have to courage to face the fact that their leadership is lying to them; that they are being made fools of by the leaders they trust?

    September 10, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  10. Hopey Changey Guy

    Notice that the President referred specifically to section 246 of the bill that deals only with insurance subsidies when addressing the question of illegal aliens. The bill does not say that they can't receive taxpayer-paid health care. It doesn't say they can't receive other benefits from HR 3200 such as expanded Medicaid. The Supreme Court ruled that illegal aliens qualify only for emergency medical care through Medicaid. This is mostly childbirths which cost billions of dollars each year. Most states to not require proof of residency so the actual number is not known. I guess its more of a lie by omission. It may be the truth, but not the whole truth. What he left out is the fact that illegal aliens will receive a benefit just not specifically under section 246.

    September 10, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  11. Donna From Dexter

    Have the politicans that we elected listen to the voters that put them in office? The Senator from North Carolina should resign. Good Manners Come From Home and evidently he did not get adequate training at home.

    September 10, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  12. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    OK, as I read this, Illegals would HAVE coverage, but they would have to pay for it, like citizens would have to...
    Not perfect, but better (MUCH better) than the pictures painted by Republican'ts

    What a surprise? (No, not really)

    September 10, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  13. Ajay Jain, Garland, TX, USA

    Hecklers in Congress like JOE WILSON will be defeated in 2010!

    Obama – Biden 2012.

    September 10, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  14. OldUncleTom

    Those who do not want this program will see the problems, even if they have to make them up.

    Those who want this program are likely to overlook potential abuses, due to their support of the overall program.

    While the parties cannot negotiate, due to their politics, many needed improvements, checks and balances will not be included.

    September 10, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  15. jaye

    The republicans will spread hate and lies no matter what the facts are... and why aren't the democrats forcefully denouncing these lies?
    Who has President Obama's back?
    Democrats better start speaking out against all the republican (Sarah Palin et al) lies, and start standing up for President Obama's agenda.
    Fox News keeps the flames burning 24 hours a day....and anyone with a suit and tie can go on that show and say anything they want – and ignorant people believe them!
    I feel a huge disaster coming, aided by fox news and the republican liars...and those republican liars all profess to be Christians!
    Sarah Palin is the worst of the worst, and I'm just waiting for somebody to spit in her face and call her a liar.

    September 10, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  16. once upon a horse

    I really wish all these people who STILL keep insisting that the president wasn't telling the truth would read this. Problem with a lot on the right is the old saying "don't confuse me with FACTS!" they have their minds made up and nothing short of the second coming is going to change it. It wasn't bad enough to call the president a liar out loud but to be WRONG on top of that. Yet the dittoheads and FoxNews bunch will still back this guy. How sad is that??

    September 10, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  17. kenny k. lynch

    I think we as the people was and still Amercia Illegal Immigrants come too this land have not change, would to be true amercia people.the big and some small companys cheat amercia taxes people U.S citizens and legal residents also the Big Health Insurance breaking the with workforce companys with poor labors. we need change the Bill 3200 and section 246 andsection 242 on unillegal Immigrant and Illegal Immigrant need look at this Health Bills Why should us pay for Illegal Immigrant and unIllegal Immigrant even Illegal Aliens.

    September 10, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  18. M2smith

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

    Sec. 246 appears under Subtitle C – Individual Affordability Credits. "Affordability credits" are subsidies for private insurance plans.

    Subtitle B – Public Health Insurance Option is separate and contains NO such prohibition against coverage for undocumented aliens.

    They are separate "subtitles" and Sec 246 refers very narrowly to the subtitle on affordability credits.

    September 10, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  19. Bob in Pa

    Wasn't it strange that we went from 47 million uninsured to 30 million unisured last night ?

    September 10, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  20. dan

    If you can't trust the government to enforce our immigration laws how in the world can you trust them to enforce a bill they say won't cover illegals.
    I second what Joe Wilson said, "YOU LIE".

    September 10, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  21. Michael

    WRONG! The Dems pulled a great trick that the Republicans in committee threw a fit about. EVERY entitlement program has a section entitled "Qualifications" that details how a recipient is to qualify for the program. EVERY entitlement program lists "Legal Citizenship" as a requirement. The Dems intentionally left the Qualifications section out of HR 3200. YES, they deceptively in another section restrict subsidies to U.S. citizens and legal residents but then there is no provision in the bill that requires proof of citizenship or legal residency. Great trick, huh?

    September 10, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  22. Fred

    Will you be able to change insurance companies if you change jobs if the healthcare reform bill passes in its current form?

    September 10, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  23. cyb1851

    The facts prove that Joe Wilson and his gang of right-wing radio nuts are the liars.

    September 10, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  24. Get real!

    If this administration would have just let E-Verify work this would never have been an issue. If illegal aliens can't get work in this country they will stop coming and most will return home.

    September 10, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  25. Nea

    Ok there you have it people even though some still will not believe it even after seeing this fact check.

    September 10, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
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