EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

August 23, 2009

Reform bars coverage of illegals, but enforcement is lacking

Would President Barack Obama's proposed health care reform require taxpayer-funded coverage for illegal aliens?

No, but...

And that makes the matter both contentious and confusing.

There is nothing in any of the current drafts of the 1,018-page bill that expressly calls for government-funded insurance of illegal aliens. In fact, Section 246 of the House bill, titled, "No federal payments for undocumented aliens" states the following: "Nothing in this subtitle shall allow federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States."

So Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, could claim with a measure of accuracy, as he did several weeks ago, that, "We're not going to cover undocumented aliens, undocumented workers."

President Obama himself said, in an interview with CBS News anchor Katie Couric, that illegals would not be covered under his vision of health care reform, although he said he might support an exemption for children.

But, if the government is going to prevent ineligible people from receiving a benefit, it must have a mechanism to determine who is eligible. The current bill contains no language that requires any verification of citizenship or legal residency before health insurance is provided.

In fact, the House Ways and Means Committee, controlled by Democrats, recently rejected a proposed amendment to the bill by Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., that would have required those applying for any government funded health insurance to be screened by two systems now in use to verify immigration status — the Income and Eligibility Verification System and the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements program.

The two systems cross reference Social Security numbers and employment information to verify whether a person is a citizen or a legal resident.

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