On KCMO yesterday, Roy Blunt stood by Rep. Joe Wilson's false assertion that Barack Obama was lying in his Wednesday speech when he said, "The reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally." Blunt did not support the manner in which Wilson (described by Blunt in the interview as "a friend of mine" and "a really good guy") chose to deliver his attack, but did stand up for the substance of his accusation.
The facts are not on Roy Blunt's side. Consider the following:
It's not often that a president gets heckled during a speech to Congress. Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) did just that last night yelling out "you lie" when President Obama said his health care reform effort would not insure illegal immigrants. Though Wilson apologized later, he insisted he was correct in his assertion. The facts, however, are on the president's side.
The President's seemingly simple statement that "the reforms I am proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally" is not hard to check. In the Senate Finance Committee's working framework for a health plan, which Obama's speech seemed most to mimic, there is the line, "No illegal immigrants will benefit from the health care tax credits." Similarly, the major health-care-reform bill to pass out of committee in the House, H.R. 3200, contains Section 246, which is called "NO FEDERAL PAYMENT FOR UNDOCUMENTED ALIENS."
The best argument that we find that health reform would help illegal immigrants is that some might be able to purchase the public option — if it passes, and it might not — on the new health insurance exchange. They would purchase that at full cost. Obama said, "The reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally," which Wilson said was a "lie." Actually, Obama can make a pretty thorough case that reform doesn't apply to those here illegally. We don't find the public option argument enough to make the case that Obama "lied." We rate Wilson's statement False.
For those of you who like a little audio and visual with your fact-checking, here's an interview with PolitiFact's Bill Adair:
And for what it's worth, PolitiFact also looked at claims from Blunt and other Republicans regarding verification of immigrants' legal status, and didn't find their argument very convincing.
[T]here 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.
To compare how the Democrats' approach might be different from Blunt's, I took a look at the health care reform bill produced by Blunt and his Health Care Solutions Group. Oh, wait....
Image Credit: New York Times