Joe Wilson And GOP Colleagues Lie About Immigrants And Health Care Reform

Today, Rep. Joe ‘You Lie’ Wilson (R-SC) staged a press conference with several other Republican congressmen during which Wilson and his colleagues repeatedly lied about taxpayers funding the health care coverage of 2.5 million additional undocumented immigrants under H.R. 3962.

WILSON: I am sorry to report that the Polosi take-over bill has loopholes in it which actually is even worse than H.R. 3200. In fact, according to the Congressional Budget Office [CBO], the number of illegal aliens who would benefit from receiving health care benefits in this country would increase by 2.5 million. From 6 million to 8.5 million people [undocumented immigrants] would be able to receive health care benefits. It would cost the American taxpayer 30.5 billion dollars for people who have illegally come to this country.

Watch it:

The CBO estimate actually doesn’t say anything about 2.5 million additional undocumented immigrants receiving health care benefits. What it does say is that about half of the 17 million non-elderly residents who would remain uninsured if H.R. 3200 passed would be “unauthorized immigrants” (8.5 million) and approximately one third of the 18 million who would remain uninsured under H.R. 3962 would be unauthorized (6 million). The CBO’s analysis does not reference the undocumented population other than to point out that the percentage of the uninsured population increases if undocumented immigrants are included in its estimates. There is no reference as to how many undocumented immigrants would be covered by the proposed health care bill because both CBO analyses were essentially written under the assumption that undocumented immigrants will not be eligible.


When it comes down to it, it’s hard to say how many undocumented immigrants would remain uninsured because there is so little information on the population. In a recent blog post, the CBO explained:

The use of the terms “about one-third” and “nearly half” was meant to convey the uncertainty and imprecision surrounding our estimates of the characteristics of the remaining uninsured population. Because of that uncertainty and imprecision, we cannot provide a specific figure for coverage of unauthorized immigrants under any of the proposals. Despite the difference in wording, we would not expect any significant differences between the two bills in the number of uninsured who are unauthorized immigrants, because the relevant features of the two proposals are similar.

The CBO does not discuss how many undocumented immigrants will be insured if health care reform passes, but it’s unlikely that their insurance will be tax-payer funded. Under both House bills, undocumented immigrants are permitted to participate in the health exchange and purchase insurance at full cost with their own money. They do not qualify for subsidies. Ultimately, most undocumented immigrants avoid interacting with the US government and it’s improbable that any large number will risk getting deported just to pay lower premiums. Wilson’s claim that undocumented immigrants will cost taxpayers $30.5 billion is either misinformed or downright deceitful.

The merged House bill requires US citizens to be verified against Social Security Administration data and non-citizens to be verified using the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) Program which was designed to help benefit-granting agencies ensure that only entitled applicants receive benefits.

Dan Stein, President of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) joined Wilson. FAIR has been listed as an anti-immigrant hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center since 2007.