August 14th, 2009
10:21 AM ET

Will health reform cover illegal immigrants?

By John Bonifield
CNN Medical News Producer

It's a loaded issue - will health reform include coverage for illegal immigrants? President Obama has said no, with a possible exception for children, and the plans being drafted by Congress bar illegal immigrants. However, opponents say that the House bill leaves loopholes that may allow undocumented residents to benefit.

"There's no system for verification," said Ira Mehlman, media director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a lobbying group that aims to reduce immigration.

"On the one hand, they have language in there that says illegal aliens are not going to be eligible, but at the same time they're getting a lot of heat from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, from the Hispanic leadership groups, that say we want everybody covered including illegal aliens," Mehlman said. "They're trying to have it both ways here. They're saying to the public, 'Don't worry. Illegal aliens aren't being covered,' and they're turning around to these special interests and saying, 'Well, don't worry. There really is no system to prevent them.'"

In July, Democrats voted down an amendment to the House bill that would have required mechanisms to verify citizenship. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which advocates on behalf of Latinos, said in a statement to CNN that health reform should include legal immigrants who have followed the rules.

"The issue of undocumented immigrants is a separate one that is too often used to confuse the health-care debate. When it comes to undocumented immigrants, the caucus' priority is seeing comprehensive immigration reform enacted," said Rep. Nydia Velázquez, a Democrat from New York, chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

That's something Obama has said he'd like to see as well - immigration reform that would provide a pathway to citizenship - and legal access to the health plan.

It's estimated that illegal immigrants and their children make up about 17 percent of uninsured people in the U.S., according to recent data by the Pew Hispanic Center. Long-term estimates by the Congressional Budget Office predict that 17 million people will remain uninsured under the reforms of the House bill. Nearly half of them are projected to be illegal immigrants.

Tell us what you think. Should health reform include coverage for illegal immigrants?

Editor’s Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

soundoff (71 Responses)
  1. Dawn Clifford

    I believe that everyone should have some sort of health care coverage to back them up. Do I believe it should be handed to us- NO. Health care is not a right, it is a responsibility on ourselves to take care of our bodies. Just like we are responsible to take a shower everyday for hygiene purposes or eat healthy meals instead of junk food to stay healthy. Is the gov't now supposed to step in and subsidize our water bills and food bills just so we are clean and eat right! The reason why health insurance is so expensive is because it is not mandatory to have it. Therefore the 'pool of risk' is much greater because you have more unhealthy people that purchase insurance and way less healthy people purchasing insurance. And the unhealthy people are one's who are obviously using it the most. If it was mandatory that everyone had health insurance than 300 million Americans would help thin out that pool of risk and more money would be in 'the pot' and not put a huge dent into 'the pot' when a claim arises. Think of it as going to an amusement park with a group of people. 'The more people in your group buying tickets together, the less expensive each ticket is'. Same idea with health insurance.

    If honest, taxpaying citizens get 'free' health care then non-taxpaying illegals should get health care too, but have to pay for it 100%.

    August 20, 2009 at 12:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. bonnie graves

    It could be very simple–IF EMPLOYERS PAID FOR ILLEGALS WORKING FOR THEM_THEIR HEATHCARE COST!!!! In Martin County, FL. the hospital paid over ONE MILLION DOLLARS for care of an illegal-then returned him home and was sued for not paying for more care for him!!!! This is not right when employers get cheap labor and if the illegals need care we pay. To sove the problem if you hire illegals-pay for their healthcare-or set up clinics the employer could pay into to cover their care! To say they are welcome to ER rooms does not address the problem and is costing millions to hospitals-It's a big problem no one mentions-Obama says they are welcome in ER-Some one should clue him to the costs and how it could be solved! Bonnie

    August 20, 2009 at 19:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Doug

    Lillian Hannaford
    Thank you for your post on the Canadian Healthcare System. I'm glad to hear it's not as bad as some of the news reports makes it out to be. (God Bless our Canadian friends).

    suchitra waugh
    Do you think the US is the only country that uses people (which is wrong) and discards them? Making the illegal aliens citizens may sound humane and practical but they broke our laws. Doesn't that mean something??? We need to escort them "all" out of our country and for those here legally, welcome. We have so many "working visas" and so many other workable angles for immigrants to be here "legally." We have so many families in our country that need our help and with limited resources (thanks to the last president and our current president who is racking up debt like it's going out of style).

    Thanks for showing us it's just not a Latino problem with our illegal aliens. We are demonized for our "get the Latino" attitudes when we already know it's from many other countries. I know of South Koreans who came to this country for kid's high school education, it's free, and they learn English much faster. Now they continue to stay here, illegally, and I reported the behinds. Call me the bad guy but they are breaking the law.

    Leslie Jack
    Thanks for sharing your Democratically endorsed feelings. BO's debt (and Prez Bush's debt too) have started us to the path of a Banana Republic and it's well on it's way. The additional debt from health care, the social security pension running out of money (now even more with all the illegal aliens), and medicare following the way of social security. Thanks but "no thanks" to the additional debt. If you want to help the illegal aliens then you can pay for them. We will have a special alien tax, let's say $10,000 a years which can be adjusted each year as the needs arise.

    Carolyn Landingham
    I am so sorry for your loss. I agree with you – we have a chance to save this country’s health care system and should not accept this bill as is. It could be very simple by setting out a method of protecting Americans health and it not take thousands of pages, which won't be read or understood anyway by our elected officials.

    We have so many families hurting right now in the US and many with young children too. We need to take care of our own first.

    Send any illegal alien (from any country) packing. ACLU needs to be on the side of US Citizens versus illegal aliens. We can still deport them and do it humanely BUT DO IT NOW we must.

    August 22, 2009 at 01:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. DrD11

    Should the Illigal immigrants be covered in the new health plan?
    It makes no difference.
    Right now they have all the health sevices that they need.Even better
    than they have in their original countries,they came from.
    It is nice to come to a place that give you all the health services at no
    cost.It let you shuttle from your native country to the guest country
    to get refill of medication at no cost.Remember,some of the "Illigals"
    have their health insurance at that country.How about a "Second opinion",free and without wait.?
    Look at all the Charity Clinics and Emergency Rooms in all this
    beautifull country called U.S.A.

    August 23, 2009 at 11:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. G Tan

    No because illegals committed the crime of entering this country in the first place. I came here legally and it's a long process. I am a skilled immigrant not somebody who just wanted free health care by going to emergency rooms due to colds, sniffles, etc. I hope Americans and legal residents stand up for their rights and vote against politicians who are scared of special interest groups' votes in future elections.

    August 24, 2009 at 00:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Lin

    Here in Laredo, Texas illegal immigrants already get free health care services. While we have to pay, they get dental & medical services free.
    My husband had surgery done two years ago and he had to be dismissed from the hospital the day after having undergone neck surgery, because our insurance would not cover another day of expenses, yet there was an illegal immigrant that was in the bed next to him who was getting free health services and he had been there 2 months!!!!!! He kept telling us how he was so happy to be getting free food and healthcare services!!!!!
    I have to wait until I meet my deductible from my health plan to get my mammogram, yet an illegal immigrant can get it for free. This is never going to stop. I am tired of hearing the Hispanic Caucus cying about not being fair. Why don't they pay for all these illegal immigrants who are taking advantage of food stamps, and free dental and medical services. Why don't they complain to the mexican government for not providing them with those services!!!!! Tired of this poor illegal immigrants issue. Remember they are illegal, broke the law, and yet they are rewarded with free public education, free health services & free food. Our insurance cost are never going to go down if we keep having to pay for illegal immigrants!

    August 24, 2009 at 01:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Lin

    Ilegal Immigrants very easily come into the emergency rooms and have access to medical services. So many (especially women who give birth to their babies) come to our country because they know it is free!!!! I wish I could into the emergency room and just say I don't have insurance and see if they would tell me I did not have to pay. I am still paying for medical bills, sending monthly payments, having to make payment arrangement plans, have to pay or be sent to a credit collection agency, yet guess what illegals don't have to worry about paying, they get it free at my expense!!!

    August 24, 2009 at 01:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Lin

    Honestly, I don't know why we are so afraid of just enforcing the laws on illegal immigration. They are already getting free education, free health and dental care services, social services, and now perhaps a free college education? If you don't enforce the laws, you are just inviting more illegals to our country. The U.S. has made it too easy for them..
    Every year our taxes go up due to building more schools. We live in a border city and we are simply providing free public education and all the health care services children need. Our schools are over crowded and we will continue to build new schools to accomodate the illegal immigrants. Why not just give free health, dental, and free college education to American Citizens?

    August 24, 2009 at 01:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. D. Whaley

    I am not concerned about insurance coverage for people who are in this country illegally. I just want to find insurance at a reasonable cost for me. I am a 60 year old nurse who will probably be working until I am 65 because of pre existing conditions ( non hodgins lymphoma plus the chemo drugs affected my heart and I now have an internal automatic defriblator). I cannot get an individual health insurance policy!

    September 4, 2009 at 05:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. John Barry

    Absolutely NO medical coverage, or ANY other benefits for ILLEGALS!
    These people ARE illegal folks. Yes, we need immigration reform too, but that doesn't mean amnesty. It means sending every illegal back to their home country, and allowing them to immigrate in accordance with the law, with preference to those otherwise law abiding people who have worked and basically obeyed the laws of this country.
    Probably not going to happen though. Too much money & politics involved.
    Any health care reform must specifically prohibit illegals from getting health care, and require verification of the individual's status.

    September 9, 2009 at 12:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Bays

    There will be no real attempt to address the illegal immigration problem until the corporations employing them are punished for their illegal activity. Until our government decides to make real, meaningful reform on the issue, we have no choice but to provide health care for fellow human beings, as we do for everyone else (including prisoners). It is the only ethical, moral stance to take.

    @ Margaret – yes, you can go to another country and use their healthcare – and if you are in countries like Great Britain, Canada, or France you will be covered by the national health insurance.

    September 14, 2009 at 14:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Jerry Engelbach

    Kudos to the few unselfish people who believe that all human beings deserve healthcare, and who have the intelligence to understand that "illegals" actually contribute to society in the form of their hard work, and that it is far more expensive to deny them healthcare because of the higher cost of emergency room care.

    Those who are so high and mighty about how their tax dollars are spent would do better to stop attacking the poor and turn their attention to the greedy wealthy and their lap-dog politicians who are truly stealing our tax dollars.

    Our money pays for greed and war. It would be better spent on compassion.

    January 16, 2010 at 12:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Dennis Williams

    Hell no the health care reform bill should not cover illega immigrants. If so why don't you just offer coverage to everyone in the world. Then let the law abiding citizens of the United States pay all the fees. We need to start taking care of the the people that follow the laws. Start denying those that don't. I pay my taxes, I don't break the law, and I'm living in the US as a legally born citizen. Stop the madness and build an America we can be proud of!!!!

    March 22, 2010 at 13:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. judy mcpartland

    NO! Health care reform should not cover illegal immigrants! It would be rewarding them for their illegal actions. They should be deported. The burden they place on our educational and healthcare sytems is severe. We have Americans who go to bed hungry. We should be helping them instead of someone who breaks our laws.

    March 24, 2010 at 00:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Tim Rusco

    I've just been researching this subject a little on the internet.
    It's interesting to note that many commentators say that the U.S. is the only major country in the world which doesn't have a plan which provides medical care to 100% of it's residents ... and they typically include the numbers estimated for illegal "immigrants".
    However, I was just reading an article from the European Journal of Health Law, which states that in most EU countries an illegal resident is afforded emergency care, or care for a severe communicable disease, ONLY; all other health care is NOT provided.
    Since the same is mandated here under current policy, I wonder why no one bothers to mention that our current policies are actually the SAME as the EU countries?

    March 24, 2010 at 03:13 | Report abuse | Reply
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