Health Care Reform Likely Will Not Provide Coverage to Undocumented Immigrants, Sen. Baucus Says
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, on Thursday said that he supports "a version" of government-run health insurance but that such a program would not cover undocumented immigrants, the Washington Times reports. Baucus was speaking at an event sponsored by the Kaiser Family Foundation, Families USA and the National Federation of Independent Business (Haberkorn, Washington Times, 5/22). Baucus said that health care reform likely would provide coverage to between 94% and 96% of U.S. residents but that it would be "too politically explosive" to provide coverage to undocumented residents (Young, The Hill, 5/21).
Undocumented immigrants account for between 15% and 22% of the estimated 47 million U.S. residents who lack health insurance, according to analyses by the Center for Immigration Studies and the U.S. Census Bureau. Baucus said the finance committee has not yet discussed whether federal funding to treat low-income, uninsured patients should be expanded to treat undocumented immigrants. "I don't have a good answer yet to undocumented workers," Baucus said, adding, "There will still be charity care."
According to the Dallas Morning News, some immigration advocates have said health reform efforts will not be complete if undocumented immigrants do not have coverage. Jaime Torres, president of Latinos for National Health Insurance, said, "In light of what's happening now with the flu pandemic, it's pretty clear that, for any health care system to work, it has to cover everyone residing in the United States" (Landers, Dallas Morning News, 5/22). Torres added, "It's unfortunate that Sen. Baucus and the Congress might not have the courage to include the undocumented" (Washington Times, 5/22).
A podcast and video of the press conference are available online at kff.org.