This morning, on ABC’s This Week, Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) suggested that unless the government has “the enforcement mechanism in place,” undocumented immigrants will receive health care coverage under health care reform. Host George Stephanopoulos challenged Pawlenty by pointing to a House oversight committee report which reviewed six state Medicaid programs in 2007 and found that “they spent about $8 million to enforce it and caught 8 illegal immigrants”:
PAWLENTY: Even if you have language that says illegal immigrants will not be part of this program, unless you have the enforcement mechanism in place, it doesn’t mean much. In Minnesota, we have laws that say illegal immigrants won’t get many services but unless somebody actually checks, guess what, they show up and get the services.
STEPHANOPOULOS: This enforcement though, there has been a study done by the House oversight committee that showed in these Medicaid provisions, they spent about $8 million to enforce it and caught 8 illegal immigrants.
Pawlenty, caught off-guard, simply replied, “Well, clearly, though, if you have a law that’s unenforced, it isn’t much of a law.” Watch it:
As Andrea Nill points out, “when Colorado passed a series of stringent measures requiring applicants for most state benefits to prove their immigration status, it cost the state $2 million in its first year alone and state officials could not prove that any undocumented immigrants” applied for the program in the first place. The 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act already prohibits undocumented immigrants from being eligible for most public benefits, restricts the eligibility of legal immigrants, and codifies procedures for verifying eligibility in a way that guaranteed that almost no immigrant would slip through cracks in theory and in practice.
In fact, documentation requirements may be weeding out more eligible applicants than illegals. According to a report from the Government Accountability Office, verification requirements have led thousands of Americans eligible for Medicaid to lose coverage and added new administrative costs that “far exceeded the savings.”