Is CNSNews.com flip-flopping in its attacks on President Obama over illegal immigrants and health care reform?
In a Sept. 9 article, Fred Lucas claimed that Obama's claim that illegal immigrants will not be covered by health care reform has been "debunked" because "the proposal provides no mechanism for verifying legal status, making it difficult for insurers and medical personal to know who legally qualifies for federal subsidies under the plan."
But a Sept. 10 CNS article by Terry Jeffrey devises an entirely new rationale of why Obama's claim is false:
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.”
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.
Jeffrey has a history of baselessly conflating comprehensive immigration reform with undefined "amnesty."
Jeffrey curiously makes no mention of his reporter's claims just the day before. Perhaps that's because the claim is not as solid as Lucas asserts it to be.
PolitiFact.com looked into the claim that lack of a verification mechanism means that illiegal immigrants will automatically receive health insurance under reform:
But there are two caveats that keep the Republican assertion from being fully accurate.
The first is if the tax credits are administered through the Internal Revenue Service, there would be built-in scrutiny. For instance, if a system were set up for taxpayers to declare insurance expenses and then receive a refund or a rebate, illegal immigrants couldn't obtain coverage, "because illegal immigrants do not have legitimate Social Security numbers," said Marc Rosenblum, a senior policy analyst with the Migration Policy Institute, a group that is generally pro-immigration. "Screening out illegal immigrants through the tax system would prevent them from obtaining health care-related subsidies."
The second caveat is that language in the House bill does provide clear authority for the new government official who will run the exchange to set up that verification, as the CRS report notes.
Rosenblum concurs. "The Commissioner could enforce these restrictions in one of two ways: through document- and database-based screening requirements as in the Medicaid system, or by reimbursing health care expenses through tax refunds," he said.
Because the House Republican Conference assertion referred to "any" of the Democratic bills, we also looked through the bill reported by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The bill is generally more vague on these issues, but we did find the following passage, which seems to grant similar authority as the House bill passage cited earlier.
"The Secretary (of Health and Human Services), in consultation with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, shall develop interoperable, secure, scalable, and reusable standards and protocols that facilitate enrollment of individuals in Federal and State health and human services programs. ... The Secretary shall facilitate enrollment of individuals in programs ... through methods which shall include (i) electronic matching against existing Federal and State data to serve as evidence of eligibility and digital documentation in lieu of paper-based documentation; (ii) capability for individuals to apply, recertify, and manage eligibility information online, including conducting real-time queries against databases for existing eligibility prior to submitting applications; and (iii) other functionalities necessary to provide eligible individuals with a streamlined enrollment process."
So let's recap. There is explicit language in the House bill that says illegal immigrants should not receive the subsidized benefits. But we find the Republican conference is right that the legislation does not directly mention verification procedures and, for that reason, it's possible that illegal immigrants who are determined to beat the system might be able to get around the ban. But it's likely that the IRS would, at least indirectly, help to police that. And, the health choices commissioner would have the authority to set up a verification system. On balance, we rate the Republican claim Half True.
CNS does not mention that there are verification measures already existing in federal law that health care reform can take advantage of, or that one reform proposal does in fact provide for a verification system.