What Denying Unauthorized Immigrants Health Insurance Will Cost You

Timothy Noah writes on Slate:

In his Sept. 9 speech to Congress on health care, when President Obama said, "The reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally," Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., shot back: "You lie!" What Obama meant was that health care reform would not extend government subsidies to illegal aliens to purchase health insurance. What Wilson meant was that health care reform would nonetheless allow illegal immigrants who were uninsured to purchase unsubsidized health insurance through the exchanges that reform would create. Indeed, to whatever extent the government could track down uninsured illegal immigrants through the tax system, it would compel them to buy health insurance. This was unacceptable to Wilson and other conservatives—not because they felt illegal immigrants should be left in peace, but because they felt illegal immigrants should be excluded entirely from whatever superstructure would be created by health care reform.

It was an insane argument on more than one level. Illegal immigrants are currently permitted to purchase a quart of milk at the corner grocery. Should that activity be banned, too? If an illegal immigrant showed up at an emergency room with a burst appendix, should that person be left to die? But the Senate finance committee (probably at White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel's insistence) took Wilson's rude outburst seriously enough to insert language into its version of the bill barring illegal immigrants from participating in the exchanges at all. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., followed suit in the "blended" bill now before the full Senate. If this remains in the bill, those of us who aren't illegal immigrants will end up paying for the health insurance of those who are. Call it a nativism tax.

Read the whole thing here.


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