Immigrants & Health Care

The line in the President’s speech that made Congressman Joe Wilson shout "You lie!" was an assertion that illegal immigrants would not be covered by the health care reform proposals making their way through Congress. The President was correct and the Congressman was wrong: There is explicit language in the bill guaranteeing that it will not cover those who are in this country illegally. But, they are both wrong on the policy. Health care reform should include undocumented workers and their families.

Cong. Wilson based his claim on the fact that Congress turned down a Republican-sponsored amendment that would have required health providers to demand proof from their clients that they were in the country legally. Apart from the Orwellian aspect of the proposal to turn health care providers into law enforcement officials, a similar effort was already tried and failed with Medicaid. It turns out that very few undocumented workers access the nation’s health care system because they are afraid their status will be discovered. The Medicaid provision had the unintended consequence of denying coverage to U.S. citizens who lack proper identification. I know it may seem bizarre to middle class America that there are some people who do not have driver’s licenses, but in the real world of urban poverty, there are many such people. So, the Democrats were right to turn back the GOP amendment.


I do not fault the Democrats in Congress or the President for failing to include undocumented workers in the health care reform effort. The fact is that such an inclusion would doom the reform effort politically, which doesn’t do anything to advance the cause of health care or the cause of immigrants. The Democrats should, however, recommit to passing comprehensive immigration reform by the end of the year. I know that this will require another tough vote for some Blue Dog Dems, but the measure will enjoy some bipartisan support so the congressional leadership might be able to give Sen. Nelson and others a pass.

The U.S. Bishops have called for immigrants, legal or otherwise, to be included in the health care reform effort. Theirs is a lonely voice on this issue, as it is on the issue of abortion. The fact that their voice will not be effective in the health care for immigrants debate should not cause them, or their flock, to become angry or frustrated. As von Balthasar insisted, "success is not a name of God and is, therefore, not a Gospel category." We are called to defend the immigrant, the poor, the unborn, and all whom society marginalizes, in season and out of season.

Many bemoan the fact that the political culture has coarsened and they point to Cong. Wilson’s heckling the President in the House chamber. But, both the heckler and the heckled provide evidence of a far more consequential coarsening of our political culture. Many, especially on the right, demonize immigrants, and do so in a nation built by immigrants. And even the most powerful person in the world must pay political tribute to that demonization by assuring the nation that fellow human beings will not be able to get basic health care for themselves and their children. The bishops may be lonely in calling for immigrants to be covered, but they are being faithful to the Gospel.


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9 years 4 months ago
Mr. Winters,  You really need to clarify your remarks because they are misleading.  You make it sound that those on the right especially, demonize immigrants.  That may be YOUR opinion but I do not feel your statement to be true or accurate.  Many, many people in this country are against ILLEGAL immigrants, those who ignored our laws and did not enter this country the way my ancestors did and probably yours as well.  So to make it sound that the right, or left for that matter,  are against immigrants is not accurate. They are against ILLEGALS, as they should be. We are not ignorant.  We know who built this country and they have our undying respect and support.  You need to be more worried about our country not knowing who is within our borders and who ignored the process. If we are going to ignore our laws then send congress home for good.  We don't need them.
9 years 4 months ago
This issue is minor compared to abortion.  I even suspect that it is a diversion.
In a nutshell here are salient points where he was not being truthful about abortion.

The president said “no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions.” But the House bill would permit a “public option” to cover all abortions, and would also permit federal subsidies to be used to purchase private insurance that covers all abortions, a point that raises objections from anti-abortion groups. That’s true despite a technical ban on use of taxpayer dollars to pay for abortion coverage.
The president repeated his promise that his plan won’t add “one dime” to the federal deficit. But legislation offered so far would add hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The president overstated the degree of concentration in the insurance industry. He said that in 34 states the “insurance market” is controlled by five or fewer companies, but that’s true only of insurance bought by small groups, not the entire “insurance market.”
Obama said his plan won’t “require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have.” It’s true that there’s no requirement, but experts say the legislation could induce employers to switch coverage for millions of workers.

Here is with found inconsistent with this speech.
9 years 4 months ago
I workred for 30 years at a large corporation and when a 20 year employee was to be transfered into our dept. that needed Fed Gov clearence he told me privately he was an illegal Canadian so he would take a pass on the transfer. Also illegal Irish worked at the Corp.. also not in the Fed sector.. How many white illegals here? = millions... and these are never mentioned by the Cons. Why? because maybe they are all 'Birthers' at heart.
9 years 4 months ago
Jo, the Gospel makes no distinction about whether an immigrant is legal or illegal.  Indeed, legal immigrants are often citizens or about to be, rather than strangers. The relevant passage is "I was a stranger and you welcomed me" from the parable of the sheep and the goats.  If you continue your obvious hate for these people, I fear for your soul and the souls of those who agree with you.
Ricky, health care for undocumented immigrants is a life issue, both because they face death without health care and because they are more likely to get an abortion if they can't get it.  Indeed, anyone who is uninsured and part of the working poor is more likely to get an abortion if they don't have health care coverage - and not only for the pregnancy - but also for the child after it is born and the family at large.  While the SCHIP program will provide some of this, it is little known in some sectors and hardly automatic.  Health care reform will change this and will decrease abortions more than covering them will increase them.
9 years 4 months ago
Good post, Winters. And let's not forget the idea of solidarity - our health depends on the health of all. One sick, all sick. And who do you think washes your dishes and changes the sheets in your motel room? The same "illegals" who recently built all the houses in the housing boom. Boom over, chase them out - that's how the business seems to work. And remember, for building the houses they got $25 a day and a floor to sleep on and no health benefits. Don't believe it? I've seen it. Watched many crews in major subdivision housing projects in Las Vegas and Calif. To me it is beyond belief that those who have taken and who have want to deny those who have not. Where is there any scintilla of Jesus in this attitude?
9 years 4 months ago
I agree that it is both immoral and stupid to deny healthcare to any person who is in the United States, whether legally or illegally. It is immoral because a respect for life demands a respect for human health. I assume that those opposed to abortion would not agree to a requirement that any woman entering the country illegally must consent to abort any children she is carrying or who are conceived here, lest they become American citizens. Should she also be denied prenatal care, so that these new citizens risk being born dead or with lifelong disabilities? Should any person be denied emergency care for such things as accidental injuries, ruptured appendix, or other life-threatening events?
If someone purchases a healthcare policy, may the government or someone else decide which services they may choose to have covered? Will health insurance companies begin requiring proof of citizenship in order to purchase a policy?
Moreover, denying care to all persons puts the rest of us at risk. Tuberculosis, for example, is on the rise again in America because too many who carry it are afraid to seek treatment. If you ride a bus, a train, an airplane, or visit crowded public places where TB carriers may be present, you are putting your own health at risk by denying care.
It's no wonder we're 37th on the World Health Organization list in terms of quality of healthcare.
9 years 4 months ago
Well, I'm no conservative but i have to agree with Joe Wilson:
Obama began the speech saying that health care is "a basic human right".
Then he claimed that undocumented workers won't get it.
So, are they sub-human?
9 years 4 months ago
It is very easy to be on one's high horse about "illegals" entering the country without proper authorization to do so when you have never had to sleep on the ground or choose between purchasing a pair of shoes for a child or buying anonther few days worth of food on a week's pay.  The vast majority of the Latin American population who entered the U.S. illegally did so out of sheer desperation.  Harsh immigration laws and brutal deportation policies have the effect (if not the intent) of criminalizing poverty. 
As Catholics, let us stand unequivocally on the side of the poor, the powerless, those considered of no account or value by society.  Some of the best people that I know are undocumented immigrants who came to this country because it was the only chance that they had to escape desperate poverty, a poverty that often precluded even the most basic health care for their children.  They deserve better than the horrible treatment that they have received from many of us in this country.
9 years 4 months ago
In 2003, Joe “You Lie” Wilson [url=]voted[/url] to provide federal funds for illegal immigrants’ healthcare. The vote came on the [url=,_Improvement,_and_Modernization_Act]Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003[/url], which contained [url=]Sec. 1011[/url] authorizing $250,000 annually between 2003 and 2008 for government reimbursements to hospitals who provide treatment for uninsured illegal immigrants. The program has been extended through 2009 and there is currently [url=]a bipartisan bill[/url] in Congress to make it permanent.
Hospitals have a legal obligation to treat everyone who comes in seeking care, regardless of citizenship status, insurance or other characteristics. This means that hospitals treat millions of people every year who don’t have the means to pay. Obviously, this drives up the nation’s healthcare costs overall. Section 1011 helps cushion the costs for hospitals, but it’s [url=]not nearly enough to cover the actual costs[/url] in most areas.
To be fair, Section 1011 is just a small part of a much larger bill that contained many Republican priorities. Still, Wilson’s protest against the current healthcare reform proposal giving coverage to illegal immigrants (which is [url=]false[/url]), is in direct contradiction to his 2003 vote. Allowing illegal immigrants to purchase unsubsidized healthcare through the Exchange that would be set up under the current proposal wouldn’t cost taxpayers a cent, and it would be a step towards fixing the problem that Section 1011 was designed to throw federal money at.
So, Wilson doesn't have a problem voting to federally fund healthcare for illegal immigrants just as long as the bill is one that a Republican president wants passed.
Explains everything.
9 years 4 months ago
This is pretty funny. Over the past day, the Obama administration and Congress have gone to town to close up loopholes and insure that illegal immigrants won't get treatment.  So:
1) Was Wilson right?
2) This is a blatant, outright violation of Catholic Social Teaching. Michael Sean Winters, are you going to keep shilling for Obama forever?
9 years 4 months ago
     Since it is almost impossible to get illegal immigrants to allow themselves to be counted by census takers, even with assurances that they will not be deported, how in the world does anyone imagine them becoming part of any proposed reform plan?  
     People on vacation from Europe will not be part of the plan, so how ever their situation is handled will be how illegal immigrants are handled.  They will probably have to pay their bill at the time of service.  If they are unconcious from an accident and are taken without their consent to a hospital, well.... 
     It seems to me that bringing this concern into the debate about health care reform is just intended to exploit people's prejudices in order to undermine the effort at reform.  


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