Don't Let Health-Care-for-Illegals Kill Health Reform

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Last week, I weighed in on the health-care-for-illegals debate by saying we can bar illegals from health care for now, and then by enacting immigration reform later, create incentives and statutory avenues for illegal immigrants to become full-fledged citizens, pay their taxes, and get their proper GP check-up.  I don't think Mickey Kaus agrees with me about the latter half of that sentence, but we're jiving on Part One:


Why not just skip the Kabuki/BS phase where Congressional Dems try to sneak de facto health care for illegals through while showily saying the opposite, and just immediately agree to verification--avoiding the bleeding interval in which the ruse is sniffed out by the Right?

Ding. In order to snuff out the potential "death panel"-ization of illegal immigrant care, the Democrats could go an extra step to make it clearer that the bill will include a provision more explicitly designed to weed out illegal immigrant from receiving government-subsidized care.

Two reasons. 1) Big picture: The most important thing here is to extend health care to uninsured citizens, regulate insurance companies, and put reforms and taxes in place to control health inflation and the deficit. This is not worth losing over the degree to which we verify citizenship and prevent illegal care. 2) If Democrats lose health care over immigration, then they don't just lose health care -- they also lose immigration reform. Once Republicans stoke fears about illegal aliens snatching up all their taxpayer-provided Medicaid subsidies, the debate over immigration will have already been poisoned by the notion that Americans will not support reform that incorporates illegals. By nipping the illegal care issue in the bud, and strengthening the provisions to bar illegals from receiving subsidies, the Obama administration saves its gunpowder to fight for immigration reform at a later date.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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