White House Plan Mum on Illegal Health Coverage

By James R. Edwards, Jr. on February 23, 2010

The White House unveiled its latest health reform scheme Monday, but the materials make no mention of whether it would cover or bar illegal aliens under various health programs or require enrollees' eligibility verification based on citizenship or immigrant status.

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Silence on the administration's part could mean it intends to include some type of verification requirements, based on post-Joe Wilson assurances. Or it could mean the White House intends not to verify eligibility for anyone being enrolled in expanded Medicaid or CHIP, or receiving taxpayer subsidy to pay health insurance premiums. The safe bet is silence should be interpreted as bad news. If there's nothing explicit here – and there isn't – that illegal aliens don't qualify for public health programs or the subsidy, then, by default, illegal aliens will benefit in each of these ways.

If it's true that Obamacare extends taxpayer-funded health coverage to illegal aliens, and there's no reason to think it isn't, then the price tag to pay for their health care alone will mount to the tens of billions or more. This was the case before, and it remains the case. After all, immigrants are disproportionately uninsured.

The exact cost of the latest version of Obamacare can't be known. The Congressional Budget Office has told several lawmakers' offices: "[P]reparing a cost estimate requires very detailed specifications of numerous provisions, and the materials that were released this morning [by the White House] do not provide sufficient detail on all of the provisions. Therefore, CBO cannot provide a cost estimate for the proposal without additional detail. . ."

Well, let's do the math this way. Some 14.5 million immigrants and their U.S.-born children lack health insurance. Nearly 7 million illegal aliens earning less than 400 percent of the official poverty level are uninsured. Letting even a modest proportion of the foreign-born and their households into widened Medicaid (one of the three massive entitlement programs that's causing federal debt to expand and state spending to grow ever-higher on autopilot) and looser CHIP, as well as collection of a taxpayer subsidy, that'll cost at least tens of billions per year. The bribe of bigger federal payment for a time in this proposal, expanding the Cornhusker Kickback to all states, still won't cover the additional costs of signing up otherwise unqualified aliens – and this at a time when most states seek to pare back Medicaid and other welfare programs. As wise elders used to say, if a deal sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

If the administration and Congress don't get serious and definitely require that we screen out aliens illegally here or who should rely on their visa sponsors, their profligate spending is only going to add to the flood of red ink that's sinking the nation’s economy. The only way to effectively verify eligibility on immigration status is to use the SAVE system for every health program: Medicaid, CHIP, and premium subsidies. Otherwise, as a million legal immigrants alone get visas each year, our current immigration policies and increasingly relaxed enforcement compound the problem and increase health reform's price tag.

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Topics: Health Care