Healthcare scheme would benefit illegal immigrants

While much of the public debate surrounding the Democrats’ healthcare plan has focused on the massive costs to be paid by American taxpayers, another flaw has stayed under the radar — until last week. That’s when the National Council of La Raza and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus pushed to include illegal immigrants in the president’s healthcare effort.

Despite statements to the contrary, the Obama administration could force the American people to pay for the healthcare of millions of illegal immigrants in the U.S.

The Democrats’ bill in the House, H.R. 3200, contains gaping loopholes that will allow illegal immigrants to receive taxpayer-funded benefits. And these loopholes are no accident.

The legislation contains no verification mechanism to ensure that illegal immigrants do not apply for benefits. Republicans offered an amendment to close this loophole — it would have required verification using the existing methods that are already in place to verify eligibility for other federal benefits programs. But, when they were asked to put the language of the bill where their words were, in a party-line vote, House Democrats rejected the amendment to require verification and close this loophole.

The bill also leaves open the possibility that if one citizen family member is eligible for benefits, then the entire family — including illegal immigrants — is also eligible for the benefits.

If Americans aren’t already concerned enough about the astronomical costs of the healthcare proposal, this taxpayer-funded benefit for lawbreakers should sound the alarms.

Take just the uninsured: According to the latest research from the Pew Hispanic Center, 59 percent of all illegal immigrant adults lacked health insurance in 2007. These figures are dramatically higher than the 14 percent uninsured rate for U.S.-born adults. The children of illegal immigrants are also uninsured at extremely high rates — 45 percent of their foreign-born children are uninsured!

Of course, when it comes to illegal immigration, taxpayer-provided health insurance represents just part of the cost. Healthcare for illegal immigrants costs Americans at least $1 billion each year, not including health costs for children and the elderly. In my home state of Texas, just the price tag of educating the children of illegal immigrants adds up to around $4 billion annually!

The president claims that there is an easy solution to this problem: legalize the millions of illegal immigrants in America today. But amnesty for 11 million illegal immigrants would have a disastrous impact on the American economy.

First, as we saw in 1986, amnesty only serves to encourage more illegal immigration. Our economy is already stretched thin without having more millions of illegal immigrants draining our limited resources, making less available for citizens and legal immigrants.

Second, if we legalize 11 million illegal immigrants today, what will happen when they decide to retire in the future? Robert Rector at the Heritage Foundation found that the net governmental cost for elderly immigrants with low skills amounts “to $17,000 per person per year … half of this cost was medical expenditures under the Medicare and Medicaid programs.” The foundation estimates that the eventual cost of amnesty in terms of all government retirement benefits could exceed $2.6 trillion.

Spending billions of taxpayer dollars to overhaul a healthcare system that provides Americans with the best care in the world makes no sense. And using those taxpayer dollars to provide benefits to illegal immigrants is inexcusable.

The Obama administration and Democrats in Congress should not force American taxpayers to provide healthcare benefits to illegal immigrants.

America’s healthcare system isn’t broken. But it will be if the Democrats’ bill passes Congress.

Smith is the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee.