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Joe Wilson Voted to Provide Taxpayer Money for Illegal Immigrants' Healthcare

September 11, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

On Wednesday night, Rep. Joe Wilson [R, SC-2], shouted “You lie!” at President Obama when he said that the healthcare bill would not cover illegal immigrants. “The supporters of the government takeover of healthcare and liberals who want to give healthcare to illegals are using my opposition as an excuse to distract from the critical questions being raised about this poorly conceived plan,” Wilson said the next day in a campaign fundraising video.

However, in 2003, Wilson voted to provide federal funds for illegal immigrants’ healthcare. The vote came on the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003, which contained Sec. 1011 authorizing $250,000 annually between 2003 and 2008 for government reimbursements to hospitals who provide treatment for uninsured illegal immigrants. The program has been extended through 2009 and there is currently a bipartisan bill in Congress to make it permanent.

Hospitals have a legal obligation to treat everyone who comes in seeking care, regardless of citizenship status, insurance or other characteristics. This means that hospitals treat millions of people every year who don’t have the means to pay. Obviously, this drives up the nation’s healthcare costs overall. Section 1011 helps cushion the costs for hospitals, but it’s not nearly enough to cover the actual costs in most areas.

To be fair, Section 1011 is just a small part of a much larger bill that contained many Republican priorities. Still, Wilson’s protest against the current healthcare reform proposal giving coverage to illegal immigrants (which is false), is in direct contradiction to his 2003 vote. Allowing illegal immigrants to purchase unsubsidized healthcare through the Exchange that would be set up under the current proposal wouldn’t cost taxpayers a cent, and it would be a step towards fixing the problem that Section 1011 was designed to throw federal money at.

Here are a few more links on Wilson and the healthcare reform bill:

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