Immigrants & Health Care Reform
In the absence of immigration reform, Republicans are obsessed with targeting immigrants in every major domestic policy debate. This was the case in the debate over SCHIP and the stimulus package. And now we see it emerging once again as Congress considers health care reform.
Despite the fact that President Obama has clearly stated that undocumented immigrants will not be covered by a new health care plan, Republicans are using distorted information about eligibility to promote anti-immigrant sentiment while weakening support for health care reform. Congressman Todd Akin (R-MO) and Paul Broun (R-GA), claim that the proposed health care plan is going to give "free health insurance" to the undocumented. Congressman Broun said:
This health care plan, Obamacare, is going to give every single one of those illegal aliens health insurance at the cost of taxpayers
Misinforming the public about the actual content of the America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 is not the only tactic used by Republicans to attack immigrants and health care reform. They are also blaming immigrants for our health care crisis. In a recent press conference Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison said:
We (Texas) have the highest number of uninsured. Mostly because of the illegal immigrant population
Of course, Hutchison's statement is another lie. A national study shows that U.S. citizens make up the majority of the uninsured (78%), while legal and undocumented immigrants account for only 22%. But this is not the worst. Recently, the Senate committee has announced that is considering denying health care coverage to documented immigrants, who pay the same taxes as citizens.
It is both good policy and common sense to treat access to health insurance for all as an investment in the nation's public health...Allowing millions of immigrants to purchase affordable health care will result in the payment of billions of dollars in insurance premiums, helping to pay the cost of health reform in America
Republicans will only continue to raise the issue of immigration in other policy discussions (promoting discrimination against immigrants and delaying the policy process), until the Obama administration and Congress pass immigration reform that integrates immigrants and strengthens our economy.