Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that the federal government would be awarding $28.8 million to 67 community health center programs across the country as a result of funding made available through the Affordable Care Act. “Community health centers work to improve the health of the nation’s underserved communities and vulnerable populations by ensuring access to comprehensive, culturally competent, quality primary health care services,” the agency said in its release, noting that the new grants will help deliver care “for an additional 286,000 patients.”
But Rep. Joe “You lie” Wilson (R-SC) has seized on the announcement as a fundraising opportunity, arguing that since the funds are distributed to health clinics in farm communities that don’t check the legal status of their patients, the health law will, in fact, subsidize care for undocumented immigrants. Wilson, in other words, is taking a victory lap and claiming that President Obama did lie about the provision:
Nearly two years ago I made national news when I voiced your outrage at the misrepresentations being perpetuated by the Obama administration. The media and Obama’s liberal allies attacked me for only pointing out the truth that ObamaCare would cover illegal immigrants.
Yesterday, my point was vindicated when the Department of Health and Human Services announced its newest ObamaCare grant. CNS News reported:
“Because the health care centers receiving $8.5 million in ObamaCare money ‘to target services to migrant and seasonal farm workers’ will not check the immigration status of the migrant workers who seek their services it is inevitable that they will serve illegal aliens.”
The president specifically promised the American people that ObamaCare would not cover those who are here illegally. He misled all of us.
Wilson’s self-congratulatory re-election gimmick is not only callous in its tone, but also highly dismissive of the health care needs of migrant workers — many of whom are actually legally working in the United States. According to data from the U.S. Department of Labor, since 2001, the share of crop workers who are citizens “has increased from about 21 percent to about 33 percent, while the share who hold green cards or other forms of work authorization has fallen from about 25 percent to about 19 percent.” The Department estimates that approximately half of all migrant are citizens or have another legal status.
In fact, most still have a hard time obtaining steady insurance through Medicaid and have to rely on community health centers for their primary care needs. “Different state eligibility requirements and the lack of portability or reciprocity in Medicaid and SCHIP, create administrative barriers to coverage for mobile populations,” the National Center for Farm Workers Health concludes. “Therefore, when farmworker families move from state to state seeking employment, Medicaid and SCHIP benefits stop at the state border, making Medicaid and SCHIP unobtainable for most farmworkers and their families.”
As HHS spokesperson Chris Stenrud told Fox News, “By statute, health centers are required to provide primary health care to all residents of the health center’s service area without regard for ability to pay. However, health centers do not provide free care. All health center patients are expected to contribute to the cost of their care.”
Community health centers offer primary care to underserved populations — both legal and undocumented. And if Wilson doesn’t buy the moral argument of ensuring that everyone should have access to medical treatment, he could at least take solace in the fact that these centers create jobs, lower health care costs by treating conditions before they grow chronic and keep people out of the emergency rooms. But even all that won’t shake his deep resistance to treating all people as human beings.