House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas) challenged President Barack Obama's radio address from the weekend where the President said that the proposed health care legislation won't cover illegal aliens. Citing a report from the Congressional Research Service that identifies several loopholes in H.R. 3200, Rep. Smith released a statement urging the inclusion of a verification mechanism into the bill.
Here's the text from Rep. Smith's release:
(WASHINGTON) – President Obama on Saturday continued the hard sell for the Democrats’ healthcare scheme with a radio address that purported to expel myths associated with the bill. There is just one problem: his statements don’t match the facts.
The President’s radio address started by calling it a “false claim that illegal immigrants will get health insurance under reform." But his statements are contradicted by fact. A new report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) validates that numerous loopholes may allow illegal immigrants to benefit under the bill.
House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Lamar Smith said:
“Democrats can keep claiming all they want that illegal immigrants will not be covered in this bill. But their actions speak louder than their words. Democrats have rejected opportunities to close the gaping loopholes in this health care bill that will allow illegal immigrants to participate.
“If President Obama is committed to ensuring that illegal immigrants do not benefit from the bill – as he says he is – why not include the same verification mechanisms in this bill as already exist for other federal benefits programs?
“What’s more, the bill contains no provisions preventing illegal immigrants from participating in the Health Insurance Exchange that is to be created, including the government-run “public plan" that will be available through the federally-run and federally-subsidized Exchange. This is in direct conflict with the President’s claim that illegal immigrants will not be insured under his plan.
“The American people are more intelligent than the President gives them credit for. They understand that simply saying illegal immigrants can’t participate without providing verification is like putting a speed-limit sign on a road, then setting a policy that prohibits police from patrolling the road; it won’t stop speeders, and this bill won’t stop illegal immigrants from benefitting."
BACKGROUND: IMMIGRATION LOOPHOLES IN HR 3200
Open access to Insurance Exchange: HR 3200 contains no provisions preventing illegal immigrants from participating in the Health Insurance Exchange that is to be created, including the government-run “public plan" that will be available through the federally-run and federally-subsidized Exchange.
According to CRS: “Under H.R. 3200, a ‘Health Insurance Exchange’ would begin operation in 2013 and would offer private plans alongside a public option…H.R. 3200 does not contain any restrictions on noncitzens—whether legally or illegally present, or in the United States temporarily or permanently—participating in the Exchange."
No verification mechanism: Democrats point to language in the House bill that says illegal immigrants cannot get benefits. While that may be technically accurate, it is far from the truth.
The fact is that the statement is meaningless because the bill contains no verification mechanism to ensure that illegal immigrants do not receive benefits. Democrats defeated amendments in two congressional committees to close this loophole, including amendments that would use the very same verification mechanism that already exist in statute for other federal programs. Why not include the same verification mechanisms in this bill as already exist for other federal benefits programs? Without the requirement that there be a verification mechanism or a specific verification mechanism provided in statute, the Commissioner could determine that the eligibility requirements could be met either without verification or with as little as a signed attestation.
According to CRS: “Some have expressed concerns that since H.R. 3200 does not contain a mechanism to verify immigration status, the prohibitions on certain noncitizens (e.g, nonimmigrants and unauthorized aliens) receiving the credits may not be enforced. However, others note that under §142(a)(3) of the bill, it is the responsibility of the Health Choices Commissioner (Commissioner) to administer the "individual affordability credits under subtitle C of title II, including determination of eligibility for such credits."
Family eligibility for affordability credits: Section 242(a)(2) of the bill provides that “[e]xcept as the Commissioner may otherwise provide, members of the same family who are affordable credit eligible individuals shall be treated as a single affordable credit individual eligible for the applicable credit for such a family under this subtitle." This suggests that if one member of a family is legally eligible, every family member will be considered eligible. This is significant in terms of numbers -- the Pew Hispanic Center estimated that there are almost two million families in the United States where illegal immigrant parents have U.S.-born children. That does not include other "mixed status families" - one legal parent, one illegal parent and illegal child, etc.
According to CRS: “There could be instances where some family members would meet the definition of an eligible individual for purposes of the credit, while other family members would not. For example, in a family consisting of a U.S. citizen married to an unauthorized alien and a U.S. citizen child, the U.S. citizen spouse and child could meet the criteria for being a credit-eligible individual, while the unauthorized alien spouse would not meet the criteria. H.R. 3200 does not expressly address how such a situation would be treated. Therefore, it appears that the Health Choices Commissioner would be responsible for determining how the credits would be administered in the case of mixed-status families."
For more information, read the blog written by Dr. James Edwards, who co-authored the book "The Congressional Politics of Immigration Reform," where he discusses the loopholes in H.R. 3200. Also, visit your Action Buffet for faxes to send to your Members of Congress and watch a panel discussion hosted by the Center for Immigration Studies discussing immigration and health care.
Updated: Tue, Sep 22nd 2009 @ 11:53am EDT