Shouting WorksSeptember 11, 2009 - by Donny Shaw
That at least appears to be the message from Sen. Kent Conrad [D, ND]:
The controversy over Republican Rep. Joe Wilson’s shouting out “You Lie!” at the President over his claim that illegal immigrants wouldn’t benefit from health-care reform apparently sparked some reconsideration of the relevant language. “We really thought we’d resolved this question of people who are here illegally, but as we reflected on the President’s speech last night we wanted to go back and drill down again,” said Senator Kent Conrad, one of the Democrats in the talks after a meeting Thursday morning. Baucus later that afternoon said the group would put in a proof of citizenship requirement to participate in the new health exchange — a move likely to inflame the left.
The President said in his speech that illegal immigrants won’t be covered under the bill, and this is partly just part of the process of writing a bill according to the outline. But I think Baucus has the wrong idea here. He should be making sure that illegal immigrants aren’t eligible for healthcare subsidies, not blocking them from buying insurance at full market value through the Exchange.
In a report on the treatment of non-citizens in H.R. 3200, the CRS found that the bill does not contain an enforcement mechanism for its prohibition against providing subsidies for illegal immigrants. “Absent of a provision in the bill specifying the verification procedure, that the Commissioner would be responsible for determining a mechanism to verify the eligibility of noncitizens for the credits,” they write.
I can see the argument for Congress to write their own enforcement mechanism into the bill rather than leaving it up to the Commissioner, but blocking illegal immigrants from the Exchange and the public option just doesn’t make sense. Neither will involve any federal funds. In fact, making it easier for illegal immigrants to buy unsubsidized insurance will bring down costs for everyone else by reducing emergency room visits for the uninsured; the cost of which gets passed onto taxpayers. Under Section 1011 of the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, the government has been reimbursing hospitals for care they give to uninsured illegal immigrants at a cost of $250,000 annually.
UPDATE: Quickly after posting this, I see this clarification at TPM.
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) told reporters today that while non-citizens won’t be barred, under Senate Finance Committee legislation from entering health insurance exchanges, the exchanges themselves will require all consumers to show proof of citizenship, in order to insure that undocumented residents don’t receive any federal subsidies.
“You can’t prevent someone from being able to purchase insurance,” Conrad said. “They would not get any government assistance…. What we’re trying to prevent is anybody who is here illegally from getting any federal benefit.”
Good, OK, that makes a lot more sense.