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Health Care Bill to Cover Illegal Immigrants

One of the hot points of contention throughout the health care debate has been whether coverage will extend to illegal immigrants.

Roll Call reports that last Friday, leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) met with Speaker Pelosi to "reiterate that illegal immigrants should be covered under health care reform legislation" that comes out of the House.

"Asked if CHC leaders will ask Pelosi to specifically spell something out in the bill to address illegal immigrants, [one] Member said no. Rather, the Member said the CHC simply wants to make sure the bill — as drafted — doesn’t prohibit illegal immigrants from accessing care. 'Sometimes if you don’t say something, something happens,' said the Hispanic lawmaker."

Interesting. Especially when you put it in the context of the House Ways and Means Committee's party-line vote to reject a commonsense amendment that would have ensured that illegal immigrants are not covered. The amendment, offered by Nevada Republican Dean Heller, would have simply required that the same citizenship verification mechanisms used to screen welfare recipients be used to screen health benefits recipients.

The relationship between illegal immigrants and our nation's health care system is one that cannot be overlooked. In 2006, the Census Bureau reported that there were 46.6 million people without health insurance of which about 9.5 million were not United States citizens. The expense of illegal immigrants' health care in California, for instance, has become so unbearable that many municipalities had to eliminate this benefit to save tens of millions of dollars. Texas estimates that illegal immigrants cost hospitals there $1.3 billion in 2006 alone.

It's clear that a bill that is silent on eligibility means a bill that includes illegal immigrants.

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