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The Party of Wrong

Rep. Joe Wilson, the not-so-contrite South Carolina Republican who heckled President Obama on Capitol Hill Wednesday night, has said repeatedly that a report from the Congressional Research Service, the non-partisan research arm of the Library of Congress, vindicates his claims that the Democrats’ health reform strategy would cover illegal immigrants. If his outburst was inappropriate, he says, it was for reasons of decorum, not substance.

“The Congressional Research Service has indicated that, indeed, the bills that are before Congress would include illegal aliens, and I think this is wrong,” he told reporters Thursday.

Trouble is, that’s not what the report says at all.

In fact, CRS indicates that eligibility for the low-income subsidies House Democrats have proposed is limited to those “lawfully present in a state in the United States.” Section 246 of the proposal “would bar unauthorized aliens from receiving any premium or cost-sharing credit,” according to CRS.

Additionally, although the proposal would expand Medicaid eligibility, illegals, who don’t qualify for the program now, still wouldn’t. “This extension of benefits,” CRS notes, “could mean an increase in the number of noncitizens who already meet the immigration status requirements for Medicaid eligibility” — a group that doesn’t include those in the country illegally.

That takes care of the idea that unauthorized aliens would benefit from the taxpayer-subsidy sections of the bill.

What Democrats did do was to subject resident aliens to the individual mandate provision, which requires that most U.S. residents have health coverage. By the IRS’ definition, according to CRS, resident aliens include (1) those with green cards (ie, those in the country legally) and (2) those living in the United States for “at least 31 days during the current year and at least 183 days during the current year and previous two years,” including illegal aliens who fit that description.

So the bill would require some unauthorized aliens to buy their own insurance, but wouldn’t grant them subsidies to do so. It takes an imaginative mind to conclude that folks buying insurance coverage from private companies with U.S. dollars would somehow be a detriment to the country’s well-being — fiscal or otherwise.

The House bill would also allow illegals to access the so-called “exchange” Democrats have proposed to create — a menu of insurance options empowering consumers to compare the cost and coverage benefits of different plans. In that way, illegals would benefit from the cost savings likely to come with the creation of that menu, but again, that savings would come from market forces, not taxpayer subsidies. (Non-resident aliens would be exempt from the individual mandate.)

There are those who contend that, by including illegals in their reform plans at all, Democrats are somehow doing the country a disservice. William Jacobson, associate professor at Cornell Law, has blogged recently that, under the House bill, “illegal aliens would have been full participants in the nationalized health care system.” Jacobson foresees a future when subsidies are extended to these folks.

Having forced illegal aliens to purchase insurance, it would have been inevitable that some financial assistance would be offered to those who could not afford to purchase even the public option.

Still, even Jacobson is forced to concede that, “in fairness there is nothing in the House Bill which says so.” Nor does CRS indicate that would be the case — despite what Joe Wilson claims.

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