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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy

IPC TARGETS MYTH THAT IMMIGRANTS ARE DRIVING THE HEALTH CARE CRISIS

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From Walter Ewing at the Immigration Policy Center:

It would seem that the ageTracker._trackPageview('/outbound/article/http://www.splcenter.org/intel/nativist_cis.jsp');">Center for Immigration Studies
has decided to jump on the talk-radio bandwagon of far-right
commentators who are loudly attempting to derail substantive health
care reform through ageTracker._trackPageview('/outbound/article/http://mediamatters.org/research/200909080001');">fear-mongering and falsehoods. Although CIS has so far steered clear of the baseless rants about "death panels" and "socialized medicine," it has issued a ageTracker._trackPageview('/outbound/article/http://www.cis.org/IllegalsAndHealthCareHR3200');">new report
that seeks to buttress an equally farcical claim: that health care
reform will leave American taxpayers footing the bill for millions of
unauthorized immigrants who will receive federally subsidized health
insurance. Specifically, the report argues that H.R. 3200 (America's
Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009) could give health insurance to
6.6 million unauthorized, low-income immigrants at an annual cost to
the federal government of $30.5 billion.


These big, scary numbers are based on the false premise that there are
simply no mechanisms in place to prevent unauthorized immigrants from
receiving coverage under the bill. But, as a report released ageTracker._trackPageview('/outbound/article/http://assets.opencrs.com/rpts/R40773_20090825.pdf#page=2');">late last month
by the Congressional Research Service points out, H.R. 3200 explicitly
bars unauthorized immigrants from receiving federal subsidies for the
purchase of health insurance and reaffirms existing restrictions on
unauthorized immigrants for programs such as Medicaid and the
Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Moreover, as Saturday's New York Times ageTracker._trackPageview('/outbound/article/http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/06/health/policy/06immighealth.html');">reports,
the health care bills currently circulating in Congress would increase
insurance coverage among low-income workers primarily through the
expansion of Medicaid--which already limits eligibility to legal
immigrants and has strict verification requirements in place.

In fact, Medicaid's citizenship-verification procedures were
recently tightened under the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA), and
none of the health care reform bills under consideration has proposed
loosening or lifting those requirements. The experience of Medicaid
under the DRA also illustrates the high costs and unintended
consequences of implementing new proof-of-citizenship requirements for
the country's poorest citizens. The ageTracker._trackPageview('/outbound/article/http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d07889.pdf#page=8');">Government Accountability Office
found in 2007 that 22 out of 44 states surveyed "reported declines in
Medicaid enrollment" following implementation of the new verification
requirements, and "a majority of these states attributed the declines
to delays in or losses of Medicaid coverage for individuals who
appeared to be eligible citizens."

Moreover, the new proof-of-citizenship requirements for Medicaid
added to the administrative and fiscal burdens of state governments.
The Majority Staff of the House Committee on Oversight and Government
Reform ageTracker._trackPageview('/outbound/article/http://oversight.house.gov/documents/20070724110341.pdf#page=3');">found
that six of nine states surveyed in 2009 "reported that the costs to
the states and federal taxpayers to administer the program since
implementation began were $16.6 million." Yet the new eligibility
requirements snagged a grand total of eight unauthorized immigrants. In
other words, onerous eligibility requirements for Medicaid may not
catch many unauthorized immigrants, but they do drive up costs and
needlessly ensnare U.S. citizens in bureaucratic red-tape.

As President Obama ageTracker._trackPageview('/outbound/article/http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/07/AR2009090700225.html');">has noted,
the specter of unauthorized immigrants receiving federally subsidized
health insurance under a reform bill is yet another paper tiger in the
ideological menagerie of an opposition that is largely devoid of it own
ideas. Likewise, the President also points to the absurdity of the
notion that health care reform will somehow endow the feds with the
power "to pull the plug on Grandma." However, if Congress makes it too
difficult for U.S. citizens to get health insurance, Grandma might find
herself out of luck if she can't lay her hands on an original copy of
her Depression-era birth certificate.

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