Would illegal immigrants be covered by Democratic healthcare reform proposals, or not?
That's an issue that has come up at many town-hall meetings held this summer by US lawmakers. And it hit the airwaves big time on Wednesday night, when Rep. Joe Wilson (R) of South Carolina shouted "You lie!" after President Obama said in his speech to Congress that illegals wouldn't be covered.
Representative Wilson later issued an apology, saying he let his emotion get the best of him. But he still said he disagreed with Mr. Obama's statement.
Here's one fact: Obama was correct in asserting that illegal immigrants would be barred from receiving subsidized health benefits by language included in all proposed Democratic reform bills.
A recent Congressional Research Service (CRS) report that looked at this issue noted, for instance, that to be eligible for help under the House health reform bill, "individuals must be lawfully present in a state in the United States."
Furthermore, illegal immigrants would not be required to have health insurance, under the individual-mandate portion of the bills, according to CRS.
Thus, most fact-checking journalistic organizations deem the assertion that illegals would be covered by the Democratic efforts to be untrue. For instance, PolitiFact, a Pulitzer Prize-winning fact site, gives the statement a "Pants on Fire" negative rating.
Some Republican members of Congress, however, assert that the Democratic health bills do not contain language calling for verification that recipients of any health subsidies in fact are in the US legally.
That means that in practice, illegals would get coverage, they say.
Rep. Edward Whitfield (R) of Kentucky, for instance, told regional reporters in a conference call Thursday that House health reform legislation does not require proof of citizenship to receive benefits.
Representative Whitfield said that Wilson is usually "low-key" and that it was out of character for him to shout at the president.
Some attendees at town-hall meetings this summer were concerned by assertions in a widely circulated chain e-mail that page 50 of the House bill guarantees illegals access to health benefits.
In fact, page 50 contains what PolitiFact calls a "generic non-discrimination clause" that prohibits insurers from denying coverage based on personal characteristics. It says nothing about immigration status.
Page 143, Section 246, of the House bill specificially states the ineligibility of illegals, notes the fact-checking website.
• Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
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