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Read the Bill: Illegal Immigrants Are NOT Covered

September 9, 2009 - by Conor Kenny

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) angrily shouted “you lie!” in response to President Obama’s statement during his Wednesday address to Congress that claims of illegal immigrants being covered by the proposed health care reforms were “false.”

Politico ID’d the representative and posted the video, where you can hear the shout at around the 1:20 mark:

This claim of coverage for illegal immigrants has been repeated in viral emails and even in a press release by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), among other places. One viral email proved its case by citing:

Pg 50 Section 152 in HC bill – HC will be provided to ALL non US citizens, illegal or otherwise.

However, as we have blogged before, the claim is easily debunked by simply reading the bill, which you can do, right here, right now. Here’s Section 152:

SEC. 152. PROHIBITING DISCRIMINATION IN HEALTH CARE.

(a) In General- Except as otherwise explicitly permitted by this Act and by subsequent regulations consistent with this Act, all health care and related services (including insurance coverage and public health activities) covered by this Act shall be provided without regard to personal characteristics extraneous to the provision of high quality health care or related services.

Read it yourself: Section 152 in H.R. 3200, the official bill text. >>

Now, one could see how “personal characteristics” could be interpreted as covering one’s immigration status… unless you kept reading to Section 246:

H.R. 3200: Sec 246 — NO FEDERAL PAYMENT FOR UNDOCUMENTED ALIENS

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

Read it yourself: Section 246 in H.R. 3200, the official bill text. >>

The “subtitle” referred to here is Subtitle C, “Individual Affordability Credits,” which provides funds to low-income people to purchase private health insurance, the only section of the bill that could be construed as providing insurance to illegal immigrants.

Another comment I’ve seen around the web is that until we see specific language stating how the government is going to check IDs and immigration status, any such prohibition is worthless. Well, here’s a little civics lesson: Congress makes laws that are often broad and then directs the Executive Branch to issue regulations carrying out the legislation. Which is exactly what you’d know if you read the second paragraph in the infamous Section 152:

(b) Implementation- To implement the requirement set forth in subsection (a), the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall, not later than 18 months after the date of the enactment of this Act, promulgate such regulations as are necessary or appropriate to insure that all health care and related services (including insurance coverage and public health activities) covered by this Act are provided (whether directly or through contractual, licensing, or other arrangements) without regard to personal characteristics extraneous to the provision of high quality health care or related services.

Read it yourself: Section 152 in H.R. 3200, the official bill text. >>

So, there it is, in the actual bill text, printed in black and white. FactCheck.org and several others have also debunked this rumor.

The Sunlight Foundation has been urging members of Congress to post bills online for 72 hours so they and everyone else can get a chance to read the bill so they can, you know, understand it and make informed comments before voting. We’ve done part of the work here by posting the bill for everyone to read, but while you can lead a representative to water, you cannot make him drink.

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