We've been monitoring claims about health care reform and illegal immigrants for some time now. Most notably, a chain e-mail claimed that page 50 of the House bill gave free health care to illegal immigrants. That page didn't say that. Rather, it included a generic nondiscrimination clause that said insurers may not discriminate with regard to "personal characteristics extraneous to the provision of high quality health care or related services." So we rated the chain e-mail's claim Pants on Fire.
We read all 1,000-plus pages of the health care bill and were struck by the fact that it is largely silent on health care for illegal immigrants. Keep in mind that experts estimated there were 6.8 million uninsured illegal immigrants in the United States in 2007, out of a total of 11.9 million illegal immigrants. Right now, most states have laws on the books that require hospitals to treat severely ill people who arrive at the hospital, regardless of immigration status, and we didn't see anything that would change those laws, either.
Most illegal immigrants are also now excluded from Medicaid, the government-run health care for the poor. We didn't see anything that would change that.
One place where the bill does mention immigration status is for "affordability credits." These are tax credits for people of modest means need to buy health insurance. The credits would help them buy insurance on a national health insurance exchange. The bill specifically says that people in the United States illegally are not eligible for tax credits, on page 132, section 242.
Still, given all that, we have heard from people who said that other aspects of reform could benefit illegal immigrants.
One of the most detailed responses was from the anti-immigration group Federation for American Immigration Reform, called FAIR. You can read their statement on the matter on their Web site.
Primarily, they argue that illegal immigrants would be permitted to purchase insurance on the national health insurance exchange because the bill does not include a mechanism for verifying citizenship. So illegal immigrants would have the chance to purchase insurance in the public option, a government-run health care plan that would offer basic coverage at a low price.
So, FAIR objects that illegal immigrants might be able to purchase insurance. GIven that FAIR is identified as a hate group (I wrote about them when they were funding our English Only initiative), I imagine they object to the fact that illegal immigrants can purchase food and water, too.
Rep. Joe Wilson seems to be aligning himself with the Nativist bigots of the anti-immigrant wing of the Republican Party. People in South Carolina might want to take notice.
Oh and, Rep. Wilson: YOU lied.