Health care issues: Illegal immigrants covered?

AP News
Posted: Dec 07, 2009 2:34 PM

A look at key issues in the health care debate:

THE ISSUE: Will illegal immigrants be eligible for taxpayer-supported health coverage under the proposed health care reforms?

THE POLITICS: This perennially controversial issue flared up in September when a Republican congressman, Joe Wilson of South Carolina, shouted "You lie!" as President Barack Obama said during a speech to Congress that illegal immigrants wouldn't be covered under his health plan. Within days White House officials, unwilling to leave themselves open to any such criticism, strengthened their position barring coverage for illegal immigrants in the health bill, and pushed lawmakers to do the same.

WHAT IT MEANS: Lawmakers initially intended to bar illegal immigrants from getting federal subsidies to purchase health coverage, but would have allowed them to use their own money to buy insurance within proposed new purchasing marketplaces called exchanges. After the Wilson incident, the White House announced a new position that would prevent illegal immigrants from shopping in the insurance exchange at all, even if they used their own money. That language was incorporated in Senate legislation, but in the House, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus rebelled over the issue and the language was kept out. So the House bill would let illegal immigrants buy coverage in the exchange using their own money _ including from a proposed new government insurance plan _ but the Senate legislation would not, an issue that will have to be resolved before any final legislation can go to Obama. Currently illegal immigrants are barred from government-funded care except in certain emergency cases but many buy private insurance.

_ Erica Werner