Ways and Means Chairman: 'Illegal Aliens--I Mean They Do Get Health Care'

By Nicholas Ballasy | September 21, 2009 | 7:04 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) suggested in an interview with CNSNews.com last week that the health care reform plan under consideration in Congress will save money by moving illegal aliens off the roles of “uninsured” people where the cost of the health care they do get is absorbed by people who are insured and where they benefit from federal expenditures.
Rangel’s spokesman later clarified to CNSNews.com, however, that illegal aliens are not covered under the House health care bill, which was drafted in part by the Ways and Means Committee that Rep. Rangel chairs.

President Obama has repeatedly stated, including in his Sept. 9 speech to a joint session of Congress, that the health care bill will not cover illegal aliens. (President Obama has also said, most recently at an August press conference in Guadalajara, Mexico, that he wants to enact comprehensive immigration reform that puts illegal aliens on a “pathway to citizenship.”)
CNSNews.com asked Rep. Rangel: “Many members of Congress have used the 46 million uninsured number. I mean, is it possible to insure 46 million people and not have to raise taxes or add money to the deficit, add a dime to deficit?”
“Well, you have to understand that I don’t think anyone is saying that the 46 million people are not receiving the benefit of federal dollars in order to get health care. Right?” Rangel responded. “They just say they’re uninsured. Whether you’re talking about illegal aliens--I mean they do get health care. Whether you talk about people who don’t have coverage, they get health care and to a large extent those of us who have coverage actually are paying for the fact that they don’t have insurance. You go to a hospital, if you have insurance you are paying for the people that are in that hospital that don’t have insurance.
“And so it’s not as though you’re just rushing out insuring the 46 million, or whatever number you’re using, without realizing that you’re cutting the costs that they already are utilizing there as you improve the system,” said Rangel. “And when you add to that preventive care and other things that could prevent them from abusing the use of the system, for not being adequately prepared with preventive care, you’re saving money. You’re saving money.”
CNSNews.com asked Matthew Beck, spokesman for the House Ways and Means Committee, to clarify how Rep. Rangel expected the health bill to save money on the health care of illegal aliens if illegal aliens are not covered under the bill.
“Chairman Rangel was simply reiterating that the uninsured, including undocumented immigrants, receive care that we all pay for indirectly via cost-shifting, not that they have coverage today,” said Beck. “In fact, the cost we all pay in the form of higher premiums and charges to provide care for the 46 million uninsured is sometimes called a ‘hidden tax’ and is currently estimated at more than $30 billion.  That will decrease as the number of uninsured decreases and more people are accounted for in the system.  That said, as you note, section 246 and 242a of H.R. 3200 explicitly prohibits undocumented immigrants from accessing Federal subsidies in the Exchange, and they are already prohibited from eligibility for other public coverage programs (e.g. Medicaid, SCHIP).”