Friday, September 11, 2009

When Joe Wilson yelled 'You Lie,' was he telling the truth?

During President Obama's Wednesday-night speech on health care reform, the voice of South Carolina congressman Joe Wilson echoed across the chamber.

"You lie!"

Obama had just insisted that his proposals wouldn't provide government-funded health insurance to illegal aliens. Wilson's outburst received a chorus of boos from both sides of the house, but the question remained:

Was Obama lying?


Obama's highly-touted Affordable Health Choices Act 2009 doesn't include any measure to provide illegal aliens with government-subsidized health insurance - but that doesn't mean illegal aliens won't continue to get free health care as a result of it.

In fact, illegal aliens have been receiving free medical treatment for decades now - and characters like Joe Wilson are complicit in it.

Contrary to popular belief, America actually has a form of universal health care - the elephant in the living room nobody talks about in the health care debate.

The law makes it mandatory for most hospitals to offer emergency treatment to those without medical insurance, or legal residency. As a result, whether it's being patched up for a broken arm, or giving birth to a new baby, illegal immigrants run up a daily hospital tab in the millions of dollars.

Thanks to these laws, everybody in America has at least some access to treatment when they need it - even if they never pay for it. But who does?

Mostly, it's the 80 million Americans who purchase health insurance, privately or through their employer. Hospitals mitigate their costs by increasing the price insured patients pay. When we go in for an MRI, our bill reflects not just the cost of treating us, but also the people who didn't pay.

More than the costs of malpractice insurance, or pharmaceutical price-fixing, it's this 'free' medical care that has caused the price of regular medical insurance to shoot up. Premiums have doubled in the past decade - and are forecast to do the same again by 2020.

When Congressman Joe Wilson gets his knickers in a twist about illegal immigrants receiving free medical care on his dime, he's presumably unaware they already are.

In fact, Obama's Affordable Health Choices Act 2009 will actually reduce the number of illegal immigrants receiving free care.

One of the measures Obama proposes is mandatory purchase of insurance - fining people who don't buy coverage. These fines will be issued via a resident's Tax I.D. number - which isn't linked to their immigration status.

Thousands of illegal immigrants may now find themselves forced to buy health insurance just like the rest of us. A negligible number - but still a number.

Which means, in the great scheme of things, that Congressman Joe Wilson advocates a system that institutionalizes free health care for illegal immigrants, whereas President Obama proposes a system which addresses that issue.

And in yelling out 'you lie' across the chamber, Wilson didn't just prove that he was classless and boorish - he also confirmed that he was ignorant, as well.


Occasional Professor Tom said...

Of course, there's more to medical care than just emergency care. It's pretty unlikely that an MRI would even _count_ as emergency care that a hospital is required to provide.

And in most of the bills, there is no requirement to prove immigration status before being covered.

Now, I'm not condoning shouting "Liar!" out during presidential speeches. He's the president, not the prime minister.

But when the president standing in front of congress, and making clearly erroneous points about the bills not covering illegals, or not increasing the deficit... well, it's hard to understand how an intelligent man like Obama could get the facts so incredibly wrong.

Roland Hulme said...

Hello professor! I never commented on your last comment about health care - you should be writing policy for the Republicans! God knows they need you!

I don't deny that illegals will get medical care - but I don't see how it's different to the treatment they get now. When Wilson yells out 'liar' it's hypocritical because the system he's defending covers illegals on his dime, at least to the same extent as Obama's proposals would.

Love the link to Prime Minister's Question Time. Now THAT'S politics. Seperates the men from the boys (and the Gordon Browns.)

Occasional Professor Tom said...

Well, Illegals get emergency room care. There's a difference between emergency room care and more complex (and expensive) procedures.

So if I was illegal, I would get treated for a broken bone. But I'd have to return to my home country to get the hernia surgery I had. That's the difference, and it's an expensive one.

Obama's (or at least, the congress's) plan would cover a lot more than emergency-room visits, and that's an expansion.

And, while I'm not a big fan of Gordon Brown, I have to admit that I think he did a right thing yesterday by apologizing to Alan Turing. (You should do a post on that one.)

Roland Hulme said...

I dunno Tom - in the bill itself is says this:


Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.

The Turing thing is FASCINATING. I will research more!

Roland Hulme said...

Isn't there something in Medicaid where you have a computer system that verifies residency before they get reimbursed? Couldn't they implement that?

Either way, surely it would be federal fraud to claim payments if you're not a resident - and that could get you deported if you got found out.

Occasional Professor Tom said...

Rep. Heller, a republican, tried to amend HR 3200 to include a provision that require people to be background-checked before they could get benefits.

The amendment was voted down.

So while there's a clause in the bill that illegals won't get benefits, there's no way to enforce that.

A clause without an enforcement provision is a waste of space.

Kali said...

You couldn't have said it better. You still get emergency hospital care even if you are illegal. When I found out I was pregnant, my insurance policy stated they would not cover me b/c my doctor is out of network. Even though my insurance policy DOES participate with the hospital that my doctor works out of the insurance company said they would cover ZERO of my expenses.
Later that week, my doctor's receptionist and I conference called one of the managing representatives of my policy and she admitted that if "Kali were to suddenly go into labor walking past the hospital, she can give birth FOR FREE". It is the most ludicrous policy I have ever encountered. For someone who pays 600.00 a month, I should not have had to change my doctor to accommodate the plan. Thank God, I respect my new physicians but it was two weeks of hell trying our hardest to get approval.

Kali said...

BTW, I should also mention that I had told the insurance company that I WAS MORE THAN WILLING to pay for my doctor the 12,000 out of pocket IF they could guarantee I would not get hit with a 25,000 hospital fee. The could not guarantee.