On Saturday, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) hosted a town hall event on health care where she basically claimed that President Obama is lying when he says that undocumented immigrants won’t be covered under any health care reform plan:
BACHMANN: The real issue is, will illegal aliens have access to taxpayer-subsidized health care? Well, the answer is yes, they will. In the bill, 3200 has a section that says illegal aliens will not have access to health care, and that’s why President Obama is able to say that. But the practical effect is that illegal aliens will have access to health care because there is no provision for enforcement in the bill.
In other words, someone could walk into a Health and Human Services office and say, “I’d like to have free health care for me and my family.” And the Health and Human Services office wouldn’t have any ability to ask, “Are you a legal citizen of the United States?” They would have no ability to ask, “Could you show me your documentation to prove that you’re a United States citizen?” Without that law of enforcement, the practical effect is that illegal aliens will have health care.
Of course, this claim is the same one made by Rep. Joe “You Lie!” Wilson (R-SC). At a tea party later on Saturday, Bachmann expressed her support for Wilson by saying that “she thanked God” for him, although she added that his conduct “is not how things should be handled.”
Many policy experts point out that if verification mechanisms are put in place, they are best done after legislation is passed so that they can best match the processes in place. On the Wonk Room, Andrea Nill explained why the House voted down verification measures:
The two amendments to verify citizenship were voted down because one would have given private insurance providers unprecedented access to the sensitive income and identity information of all those applying for health care assistance and the other would have “imposed a burdensome and costly documentation procedure that we know has been a sledgehammer for a non-existent problem.”
Verification measures aren’t always effective either. A House Oversight Committee investigation “reviewed six state Medicaid programs in 2007 and concluded that verification rules had cost the federal government an additional $8.3 million. They caught exactly eight illegal immigrants.” The Government Accountability Office has found that such requirements caused eligible U.S. citizens to lose Medicaid coverage.
Additionally, 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.