September 22nd, 2009
06:24 PM ET
12 years ago

Agency: Coverage for illegal immigrants hard to calculate

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, right, asked the CBO to analyze a proposal by Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, left, as well as health care reform legislation drafted in the House of Representatives."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The number of unauthorized immigrants who might illegally access health care subsidies under currently debated health care bills is too uncertain to calculate, the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday.

The independent, nonpartisan legislative office estimated earlier this month that the bill proposed by Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Montana, would cost $774 billion.

In a letter Tuesday to Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the budget office said its cost calculation included those who may try to cheat the system by misreporting income or family circumstance as well as access by unauthorized immigrants.

However, "we have no basis for quantifying those factors separately for this or other proposals," the letter said.

Grassley had asked the agency for details about health care coverage for illegal immigrants under both Baucus' proposal and the House's health care proposal.

Under the Baucus plan, unauthorized immigrants would not be eligible for coverage through what is called the "exchange," where consumers could choose among insurance plans or a government-run plan, the Budget Office said. They also would be ineligible for government subsidies. The verification process would be similar to the process that currently exists for Medicaid.

Stringent enforcement of a verification process would keep more illegal immigrants from getting insurance or subsidies from the government, but could discourage some eligible individuals from applying, the letter said.

In addition, vigorous enforcement would reduce subsidy costs to the government, but increase administrative costs, it said.

The House bill also would deny government subsidies to unauthorized immigrants. But according to a report by another independent government agency, the Congressional Research Service, the language of the bill does not set restrictions to the insurance exchange based on immigration status.

The Budget Office's letter to Grassley states that it took noncompliance with the law into account, "but again, we cannot provide a specific figure for coverage of unauthorized immigrants under that proposal."

The office did, however, provide estimates for how many immigrants living in the country illegally are insured under current law.

The agency projected that by 2019, there will be some 14 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States. Of those, nearly 60 percent, or 8 million, will be uninsured, the letter said. About 4 million will be insured through employment-based coverage, and another 1 million will have some alternate form of insurance, not including Medicaid, the Budget Office said.

The remaining 10 percent, or about 1 million unauthorized immigrants, will be covered through some form of Medicaid, it said. This coverage is possible under the current law, which allows illegal immigrants some Medicaid coverage for emergency care if they would be eligible for the program outside of their immigration status, the letter said.

The estimate of illegal immigrants on Medicaid includes those who access the benefits fraudulently, but "we believe that state agencies administering the Medicaid program successfully screen out most ineligible individuals," the letter said.

Filed under: Health care • Immigration
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Jimmy

    Of course it's hard to calculate...........if they told us the truth, we would all be at the Tea parties. Obama will solve the issue of no health insurance to illegals, by granting amnesty and making millions of new citizens instantly........that we the TAX payers can support.

    September 22, 2009 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  2. Enough

    Well maybe they should calculate by assuming that ALL of them will receive free healthcare.............because they will. We are really tired of being lied to and not given all the truth, but then told to support it.

    September 22, 2009 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  3. NC

    My goodness, we have illegal immigrants that work harder than a lot of lazy Americans. So what if a few get needed health care. We have people getting Medicare and Social Security that never worked a day in their lives.

    September 22, 2009 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  4. Shelly

    I am so sick of these lies about illegals. They already get FREE healthcare, which all taxpayers pay for. They just go to the emergency room or sign up for state benefits, Viola!! In CA an illegal can own a home and receive FREE healthcare. One news story had a woman with 4 girls who wanted a boy, took fertility meds and had 6 additional children,FREE and took them home to the house she owned. If illegals want healthcare they should pay like everyone else, better yet the govt should check ID and deport them and their children,as most are only here for what they can get, FREE. There is a saying "how can you take care of someone else if you cant take care of yourself"? American needs to take care of herself, first......then FREE wont matter.

    September 22, 2009 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  5. Christa

    Umm... I work in a state agency we already give them free health care this is no new debate... we can't ask if they are or not we just have to give them sesrvices, our tax dollars are paying for them... this isn't new so the "You lie" was just a bull crap line... because we are all ready giving them free everything.... duh... this is just a ploy to get people side tracked.

    September 22, 2009 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  6. Mark

    ANYTHING that the gov't runs is "hard to calculate" hence NO to gov't health sponsored coverage

    September 22, 2009 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  7. Hmm

    So WHO really lied?

    September 22, 2009 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  8. t22

    Wouldn't it be "none"? After all the President said so and affirmed that that statement was the truth.

    If an illegal does get enrolled, does the President have to apologize to Congress?

    September 22, 2009 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  9. Ancient Texan

    It doesn't matter how many illegals there are, Our President has planned to make them legal by the time the insurance plan goes into effect. Blanket Amnesty should take care of that; along with instructions to always vote Democrat.

    September 22, 2009 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  10. smiff

    The hardest thing to fathom for most is that this so called reform is simply a remodel of the current situation. The only thing changing for middle class and upper class folks is more of them will pay into the system and get less with less input. The people who already get free health care will add a few million numbers but still pay nothing. The Hispanic and "less fortunate" have become gold to the democratic party. Its a huge voting block just as in LBJ and the great society. Its vote buying with taxpayer dollars. Maybe some news anchor oughtta define "entitled" for this crowd. IT MEANS SOME GROUP IS JUST DUE SOMETHING FOR THEIR SPECIAL STATUS. Being a tax payer is NOT that status!!!

    September 22, 2009 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  11. G28

    We need to solve the illegal immigrant problem before healthcare...if we would just give them a $100 work permit we could at least know how many there are in the country (and raise like $1 billion in fees, lol). Once we know who they are we can make sure that they are paying taxes (More tax and social security money!)....once we have that figured out we can decide if they should participate in any way in our social programs. Frankly, many of these people work very hard and many of our own citizens are too lazy or arrogant to do those jobs. If they worked and paid taxes for 5 years, I'd probably let them partake in our programs.

    September 22, 2009 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  12. American citizen

    So he did lie.

    September 22, 2009 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  13. Chicago11

    This headline is misleading. It's the cost of fraud. This makes it sound like a planned program cost and that the plan purposely expects this cost.

    September 22, 2009 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  14. Ryan, Council Bluffs

    So my tax dollars will not only go to subsidize other individuals insurance who are "poor" or lazy, or unwilling to obtain private coverage, plus employers who decide my tax dollars subsidizing health care plans saves him money, Now ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS WILL GET COVERAGE. I guess Joe Wilson was right!

    September 22, 2009 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  15. nurse

    Just what the leader wants all hail obama .

    September 22, 2009 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  16. Abbott

    I disagree with Obama, and think illegal immigrants should be allowed (in fact, they should be required) to pay premiums and participate in the new plans. Why? Because I wouldn't want to catch H1N1 (or anything else, for that matter) from an illegal immigrant any more than I would want to catch it from a legal citizen. Universal health care protects us all.

    September 22, 2009 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  17. Truth-Bomb Thrower

    Let's doe some critical thinking, folks. Ask yourself: Why would politicians (one politician in particular) who have already expressed ardent support for amnesty for illegal aliens, drivers licenses for illegal aliens, and government healthcare NOT ALSO be for extending that government healthcare to those illegal aliens. THINK ABOUT IT! JOE WAS RIGHT! YOU'RE BEING LIED TO!

    September 22, 2009 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  18. Ren from Baltimore

    Sen Grassley,

    You have not shown finance, nor health care's complexities, nor even civil give-and-take to be your strong suits. Oh, and I left out standing up for the American citizen, not Big Insurance.

    Iowa is made up of truly outstanding Americans. They deserve so much better than you are providing them. Corn subsidies--those make a mockery of the American Farmer.

    America itselrf is made up of equally outstanding citizens, who also deserve better. You should accept that you and your staff are out of your element, and stand down on this one. You don't even know the right questions to ask, nor to ask them of.

    You complain, why are we reforming a system that currently leaves out only 13 million of our citizens? You then go on to complain, there'll be thousands of illegal immigrants cheating the system, and we can't have that! Seems the $2 million from the insurance lobbyists have bought them your moldable mind, sir.

    September 22, 2009 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  19. lis

    Just bring all illegal to new democrats vote..bribe with welfare and free all

    September 22, 2009 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  20. jony

    LIBERAL the most corrupt scum in usa,bring all criminal to get elected and screw tax payer

    September 22, 2009 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  21. David from WI

    Obama will say now that no illegals will be covered under the health care bills.

    In the next few months or so when immigration reform will be tackled there will be a push for an amnesty of illegals.

    The net effect will be that illegals NOW will be legal LATER and they THEN will be covered by any current bill that says illegals will not be covered.

    Political slight of hand and if this DOES come to pass (listen to Obamas own words) it is dishonest and nowhere near transparent. It is less smart than cunning. Not honest and an insult to the American people.

    Puts the congressman's Wilson's rude outburst in a different light don't you think?

    September 22, 2009 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  22. Vic in VA

    I think since undocumented immigrants have access to emergency medical care and US citizens primarily foot the bill (either thru Medicaid or increased premiums) that the undocumented should also pay into the health care coffers. Just like they pay into social security and medicare. (If not working under the table).. We're all in this together. Or I guess we could always take over Mexico Hmmm...

    September 23, 2009 12:15 am at 12:15 am |