La Raza President Wants Health Care Reform for ‘Everyone,’ Including Illegal Aliens
(CNS NEWS) National Council of La Raza President Janet Murguia said that health care reform should include “everyone,” and this means illegal immigrants as well because with more people paying into the system it might lower the costs of health care.
Speaking to reporters Thursday at a press conference in support of President Barack Obama’s efforts to pass a government-led overhaul of the nation’s health care system, Murguia said that while the issue of illegal immigrants was politically difficult, there were “strong” arguments for covering the illegals.
“From our perspective there’s a strong case to be made in this country for us to reform health care [and] it ought to include everyone,” said Murguia. “There’s a lot of different reasons why we should try to reform this system once and for all so that everyone is covered. The more people who are covered, the more cost-effective and the more and better health outcomes we’re going to have.”
“We know that politically it’s very difficult right now to take on the issue of undocumenteds [but] there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be trying to cover as many people as possible, certainly when it comes to undocumented children,” she said. “Our goal should be to have health care reform for everyone.”
Both of the current House and Senate versions of health care reform legislation restrict the availability of federal health insurance subsidies to U.S. citizens and legal residents. Title II, Subtitle C, Section 246 of the House health care bill (H.R. 3200), for example, stipulates “no federal payment for undocumented aliens.”
The Senate bill says that beneficiaries of federal health care programs must be a citizen or national or an alien lawfully admitted to the United States. But neither bill apparently has a provision for verifying citizenship status.
At a speech before the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute in September, President Obama said, “I want to be clear: If someone is here illegally, they won’t be covered under this plan. That’s a commitment I’ve made.”
Republican attempts to amend the health care legislation to require a photo ID and Social Security number and similar safeguards to receive federally subsidized health benefits have been defeated, largely along party lines.
The National Council of La Raza is the nation’s oldest Hispanic organization.
Murguia joined the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda on Capitol Hill on Thursday to lobby for Obama’s health care policy, saying that the way to resolve the issue of illegal aliens and health care was to pass comprehensive immigration reform, which would stop the “segmenting” of American society.
“We support health care reform and we support comprehensive immigration reform,” said Muguira. “Once we take on that issue we’re hoping that we can be done with the issue of trying to segment this country into certain segments of population.”
Comprehensive immigration reform would convert illegal immigrants into legal immigrants who would be permanent legal residents of the United States with an opportunity to be naturalized as U.S. citizens.
At that same speech in September, Obama said: “I also want to make this clear: Even though I do not believe we can extend coverage to those who are here illegally, I also don’t simply believe we can ignore the fact that our immigration system is broken.”
“If anything, this debate underscores the necessity of passing comprehensive immigration reform and resolving the issue of 12 million undocumented people living and working in this country once and for all,” Obama said.
Muguira said on Thursday: “From our perspective, when it comes to comprehensive immigration reform, we need to settle that issue once and for all [because] there’s a group of 12 million individuals who’ve been making important contributions to this country, we need to find a resolution for them.”
When asked exactly what that “resolution” would be, Murguia said it was a pathway to legalization, adding that once it is passed, the issue of illegal immigrants will not come up again.
“We need a path to legalization,” said Murguia. “We can make it happen. Once we do that, we can resolve this issue and won’t see it come up issue after issue, bill after bill. There’s a strong case to be made even today for why health care reform should include everyone.”
When asked by CNSNews.com to clarify whether a pathway to legalization was the solution to getting insurance coverage for illegal immigrants, Murguia said it was “a solution” and that immigration reform was needed so that all reform proposals would not face this potential roadblock.
“It would be a solution,” she said. “What we have argued all the time is that we should tackle the issue of comprehensive immigration reform once and for all because it may not be health care reform, it could be any other major reform, but these issues of the status of undocumenteds in this country and what’s right and fair are going to continue to come up.”
“If we can resolve that,” she said, “I think we’ll go a long way to being able to address these broader reforms without these issues being distractions.”
CNSNews.com asked Murguia whether her “solution” meant that illegal immigrants would be eligible for federal health insurance subsidies if comprehensive reform is passed. She responded that illegal aliens should be covered along with everyone else, but that who was eligible for which federal programs would depend on the specific reform proposals.
“Right now, there’s a case to be made in the long term for including as many people as possible because it’s more cost-effective and because there’s better health results and all of that,” said Murguia. “In terms of fairness and cost efficiencies I think it’s in the interest of health care reform to have access to as many people as possible.”
“If we can deal with comprehensive immigration reform and once and for all deal with what the status change would be for those folks, then I think there’ll be a lot of clarity as to what access they would have to any federal government programs or to any subsidies,” she said. “We just want to make sure we can deal with comprehensive reform so we can have more clarity.”