Republican Governors Association calls for feds to pay undocumented immigrants’ Medicaid

This week, the Republican Governors Public Policy Committee released a report on Medicaid that outlines cost-saving measures decided upon by 31 Republican governors. Among the policy recommendations is a proposal to require the federal government to pay for the care of undocumented immigrants.

The report, “A New Medicaid: A Flexible, Innovative and Accountable Future” (.pdf), proposes what the group calls “the best ideas from the states to be considered in reforming the nation’s health care system.” The report includes 31 “solutions.”

One of the policy solutions mentioned was one requiring “the federal government to take full responsibility for the uncompensated care costs of treating illegal aliens.”

This suggestion was added to a Medicaid reform proposal, despite the fact that illegal immigrants are already not allowed to receive Medicaid benefits. However, for some governors, that is beside the point.

The Wall Street Journal reports,

But RGA Policy Chairman and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said illegal immigrants sneak onto the program in his and other states and add to its tab.

“Let’s don’t kid ourselves,” Gov. Barbour told reporters during a briefing at RGA headquarters in Washington. “There are people who are getting on the system and violating the law.”

Even if they’re not on Medicaid, illegal immigrants cannot be refused treatment at emergency rooms, and hospitals end up absorbing that cost when patients don’t pay those bills, said Bill Hazel, Virginia’s secretary of health and human resources. Neither he nor Mr. Barbour would say how much that actually costs their states, and Democratic governors haven’t cited it as a significant cost.

The bigger point, Mr. Barbour said, is that the Obama administration has sued states to block them from enforcing their own laws to keep illegal immigrants out of the country. So if the federal government is going to insist on being solely responsible for securing the border, it should foot the bill when its immigration enforcement fails and leaves states with stacks of unpaid medical bills.

There are other attacks on health care provided by the federal government to undocumented immigrants.

Rep. Joe Wilson, the South Carolina Republican who famously yelled, “You lie!” at President Obama during a state of the Union address, is opposed to money that goes to community health centers, which provide services to undocumented immigrants.

Community health centers are currently being strengthened under the new health care reform law because they provide access to health care to underserved populations, which includes immigrants and other people who do not have insurance. Many women and children who would not otherwise receive health care, rely on local community health centers’ services.

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