(CNSNews.com) - In his speech to a joint session of Congress last night, President Obama said that his health care reform plan will not insure “illegal immigrants.” The statement instantly became a matter of controversy when Rep. Joe Wilson (R.-S.C.) yelled out in the House chamber, “You lie.”
Wilson has since apologized for his outburst.
But President Obama’s statement about illegal aliens and health care reform deserves further scrutiny.
“There are also those who claim that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants,” said Obama. “This, too, is false. The reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.”
It is true that both the House and Senate health care bills as they are now drafted would make illegal aliens ineligible for federally funded health care. But President Obama has stated as recently as last month at a press conference in Mexico that he will seek “comprehensive immigration reform” legislation that will put illegal aliens on a “pathway to citizenship.”
Viewed in combination, the president’s health care and immigration reform plans would in fact let people who are illegal immigrants in the United States today receive federally funded health care benefits when the plan comes on line. In his speech last night, the president said that the health insurance exchanges where people would buy federally subsidized insurance would not begin operating until four years from now. If Obama follows through on his agenda as planned, immigration reform will be enacted in the intervening time.
Section 246 of the health care reform bill that has been approved by three House committees is titled, “No Federal Payment for Undocumented Aliens.” It says, “Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.”
The bill passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, defines an “eligible individual” under the bill as “a citizen or national of the United States or an alien lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence or an alien lawfully present in the United States.”
At an August 10 press conference in Guadalajara, Mexico, President Obama was asked this question: “I wonder if you can tell us what you think the prospects are for immigration reform, for comprehensive immigration reform, which you've said is your goal; and whether you think that the blows you're taking now on health care and that the Democrats are likely to take around the midterm elections will make it hard, if not impossible, to achieve comprehensive immigration reform in this term.”
Obama responded that he was “confident” he would get immigration reform that created a “pathway to citizenship” for illegal aliens.
“Now, am I going to be able to snap my fingers and get this done? No,” said Obama. “This is going to be difficult; it's going to require bipartisan cooperation. There are going to be demagogues out there who try to suggest that any form of pathway for legalization for those who are already in the United States is unacceptable. And those are fights that I'd have to have if my poll numbers are at 70 or if my poll numbers are at 40. That's just the nature of the U.S. immigration debate.
“But ultimately, I think the American people want fairness,” Obama continued. “And we can create a system in which you have strong border security, we have an orderly process for people to come in, but we're also giving an opportunity for those who are already in the United States to be able to achieve a pathway to citizenship so that they don't have to live in the shadows, and their children and their grandchildren can have a full participation in the United States. So I'm confident we can get it done.”
So, the bottom line is this: Obama intends to enact health-care reform legislation that expressly prohibits giving federal health insurance benefits to illegal aliens. He then intends to enact “comprehensive immigration reform” that will make illegal aliens into legal residents of the United States thus making them eligible for the new federal health insurance benefits created by his health-care reform bill.
Illegal immigrants won’t get federal health insurance benefits under Obama’s plan because they won’t be illegal immigrants anymore, they will be legal immigrants.