Last night, Lou Dobbs Show correspondent Lisa Sylvester reported that “people who break immigration laws” will be “rewarded” with free health care coverage due to “gaping loopholes” in the proposed health care bill. Sylvester interviewed right-wing immigration hardliners and health care opponents to make her case:
ROBERT RECTOR, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: What we’re doing is creating a new program for low-income people to give them free medical care and giving illegal immigrants free and total access to that system. It’s a huge transformation. It’s radically different than anything the country has done in the past.
SYLVESTER: An amendment was offered that would have enabled states to use the Welfare Eligibility data base to keep illegal immigrants from qualifying for health care benefits. But that amendment was defeated in committee on a party line vote. And there’s another provision in this bill that some Republicans take issue with. It says that if one member of a family is eligible to receive universal health coverage then the entire family is eligible. Representative Lamar Smith calls that another loophole that he says will permit illegal immigrants to receive taxpayer funded health coverage.
Far from “free and total access,” there is specific language in both the House and Senate bills that prohibits undocumented immigrants from obtaining any federal health care assistance. However, several conservatives are still whining about the failure of the Heller Amendment, which Sylvester also cites above. None of them have mentioned that the amendment would have given private insurance providers unprecedented access to the sensitive income and identity information of all those applying for health care assistance while curtailing the privacy and redress responsibilities that the Social Security Act requires of government agencies.
The second “loophole” that Smith falsely claims will allow undocumented immigrants to receive universal coverage through legal family members represents another distortion. The House bill clearly stipulates that only family members who are “affordable credit eligible individuals” will receive government assistance. “Affordable credit eligible individuals” are defined as someone who is lawfully present in the US.
Rather than requiring Americans to hand over sensitive information to private insurers, the eligibility provision is enforceable via less invasive documentation requirements. If Congress decides to take up comprehensive immigration reform, there’s also the likely possibility that illegal immigration will be addressed head-on by putting undocumented immigrants on a path to legalization which is when and how this whole topic should be addressed in the first place.