Illegals and Health Care

One of the thornier arguments right now about health care reform legislation in the Congress is whether it would allow for government money to go to pay for the coverage of illegal immigrants in the United States.

When you search through the bill, there really isn't much that mentions illegal immigrants, legal residents or anything about those who aren't U.S. citizens.

While I have said that repeatedly on the air, some of my listeners claim the exact opposite in their own blogs.

"I could be wrong, but I swear I heard Jamie Dupree mention on the Neal Boortz show yesterday that the proposed health care reform was setting up a system to cover the medical costs of illegal aliens by reducing coverage of senior citizens and the senior citizens should be unhappy," said one.

All I could say to that is, "Wow."  Let's just be clear:  I never said that - and never said anything close to that.

From my own examination of this bill, there are no new special loopholes set up that would allow illegal immigrants to get health care paid for by American taxpayers.

What do Democrats and the President say about this issue?

"Everybody who's listening out there, when you start hearing that somehow this is all designed to provide health insurance to illegal immigrants, that is simply not true and it has never been the case," the President told a radio talk show last week.

Mr. Obama though did acknowledge that hospitals still would accept illegals who need emergency treatment.  That is current law, as treatment of illegals is funded through Medicaid.

Currently, illegals can get non-emergency medical care in the US, but only if they pay the bill.  That doesn't seem to change in this bill, but it's certainly being heatedly debated.

As I said above, there are hardly any mentions of illegal immigrants in the health reform bill.  The word "illegal" isn't found in the over 1,000 page bill approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The only mention of the term "legal resident" is on page 817, which is a technical correction to the S-CHIP law approved earlier this year on children's health insurance programs.

It replaces the term "legal residents" with the phrase "lawfully residing in the United States."  Why that change was needed, I'm not sure, but that's what I found in the health reform bill text.

The word "immigrant" is not in the bill once.  It appears as part of the term "nonimmigrant" on page 132.

That is Section 242, which is on "Affordbale Credit Eligible Individual."  It specifically says those credits are available only to "an individual who is lawfully present in a State in the United States (other than a nonimmigrant described in a subparagraph (excluding subparagraphs (K), (T), (U), and (V)) of section 101(a)(15) of the Immigration and Nationality Act."

That's a mouthful of legalese, so let's try to break it down.

This paragraph seems to say that illegal immigrants are barred from getting federal aid to pay health care premiums, but there are four exceptions.

To find those, I had to look up the Immigration and Nationality Act, which was as byzantine as the health reform bill.  You can find these provisions at http://www.visaportal.com/page.asp?page_id=139

Subsection (K) deals with fiancees of a U.S. citizen, a foreigner married to a U.S. citizen and the minor child of such a married couple.

Subsection (T) is an alien (under 18) who has been the victim of sex trafficking, involuntary servitude, debt bondage or slavery, and would suffer "extreme hardship" if sent back to their native country.

Subsection (U) deals with aliens who have "suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of criminal activity," dealing with rape, incest and much more as described in immigration law.

Subsection (V) deals with aliens who have filed a petition with the US to join their family members in the US, according to an immigration law approved by Congress in 2000.  That petition must still be pending with US officials.

Those don't seem to be giant loopholes, but I will let you make that determination.

Next in Section 246 of the bill, which is entitled, "No Federal payment for undocumented aliens," there is a specific citation which does not allow illegals to get government subsidies to help them pay for health reform.

"Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States," the bill text states.

That's it.  There isn't anything else in the bill addressing illegal immigrants.

Now I know lots of people claim that the bill leaves open the avenue for taxpayers to pay for health care of illegal immigrants.  Neal Boortz said because the bill doesn't expressly prohibit it, then it's okay.

But if you go down that road, then a lot of things would be possible, because they weren't specifically mentioned in the bill, like health care for space aliens.  That's not ruled out in the bill expressly.

As always, if you find something else related to this subject of illegal immigration, let me know.  I'm happy to keep exploring the possibilities.

Illegal immigration is a hot button issue, one that has put Democrats on the defensive repeatedly in recent years, and has some Dems backpedaling a bit on health reform.

But if you're looking for a "smoking gun" in this bill on opening new avenues to have illegal immigrant health care paid for by taxpayers, it may be that there's nothing really like that in the current reform legislation.