A reader writes:
I hate to presume that a blogger is posting in bad faith, but when an intelligent guy like Matt Welch asks an opened-ended question to which he could easily look up the answer, I'm not sure how else to interpret it. In point of fact, the mandate in the House bill would apply to all resident aliens, irrespective of their immigration status. And the Exchange would be open to all, so that they could buy coverage. Welch ought to know this, because the articles to which he links use these facts to insinuate that the bill will extend coverage to illegal immigrants.
But what it would actually do is force illegal immigrants to buy coverage without the benefit of subsidies.
In other words, the very elements of the bill being used by critics to demagogue on illegal immigration would actually force them to pay for their own health care. This would have two salutary effects - reducing the amount of uncompensated care, which the rest of us currently subsidize, and raising the relative cost of living in this country illegally. If those most concerned with illegal immigration would stop trying to find evidence of a nefarious conspiracy in the bill, they might notice that it actually advances their goals.
This reader is mostly correct, though enforcing a mandate on illegal immigrants may prove challenging. Here's the Congressional Research Service report (pdf) that sparked this debate, and here's an important excerpt:
Under H.R. 3200, all legal permanent residents (LPRs), nonimmigrants, and unauthorized aliens who meet the substantial presence test [present in the United States for at least
31 days during the current year and at least 183 days during the current year and previous two years] would be required to obtain health insurance. Noncitizens meeting the definition of nonresident aliens (e.g., temporary visitors, temporary workers in the United States for less than 183 days in the year) would not be required to obtain health insurance. Notably, the IRC does not contain special rules for individuals who are in the United States without authorization (i.e., illegal or unauthorized aliens). Instead, the IRC treats these individuals in the same manner as other foreign nationals—an unauthorized individual who has been in the United States long enough to qualify under the substantial presence test is classified as a resident alien; otherwise, the individual is classified as a nonresident alien. Thus, it would appear that unauthorized aliens who meet the substantial presence test would be required under H.R. 3200 to have health insurance.
The WSJ writes today that:
According to an analysis last month by the Congressional Research Service, Congress's nonpartisan research body, the House version of an overhaul that was passed over the summer excludes illegal immigrants from a requirement that most uninsured people either purchase insurance or pay a tax.
Unless the WSJ is talking about a different report, or the Dish and the reader above are mistaken, this is wrong. The CRS report above says the exact opposite. Short-term illegal immigrants won't be mandated to get insurance but long-term illegal residents will. Polifact rates the Republican claim that "the health care bill won't check who's illegal" as half-true. Read their analysis to see which half.