Immigrant Rights Group: Baucus and Conrad ‘Caved’, Made Health Care Bill More Expensive

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I just got off the phone with Frank Sharry, Executive Director of the immigrant rights group America’s Voice, who’s not exactly pleased that Sens. Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Max Baucus (D-MT) are responding to the Joe Wilson scream incident by writing immigrant restrictions into health care legislation.

“Baucus and Conrad are caving on a fake issue that is trumped up by Republicans not to better the bill but to trump up opposition to reform,” Sharry declared. “I just find it stunning that they would validate what Joe Wilson did.”

Sharry also points out that the changes to the bill are likely to be extremely inefficient.
Under Medicaid, he says, “there is currently a verification system in place called the SAVE program, which works pretty well.”

But under President George W. Bush, Congress passed the Deficit Reduction Act, which implemented a checkpoint system resembling the plan Baucus and Conrad have adopted. In 2007, a Government Accountability Office report (PDF) found that “the DRA documentation requirements have led to widespread declines in Medicaid enrollment and increased administrative costs [and] have cost significantly more to implement than they have saved in expenditures by excluding undocumented immigrants from Medicaid coverage. For every $100 spent by federal taxpayers to implement the new requirements in six states, only 14 cents in Medicaid savings can be documented.”

So not only is this particular method of avoiding systemic abuse by low-wage, undocumented residents ineffective and politically dubious. It’s also extremely wasteful. Thankfully, though, Congressmen like Joe Wilson will no longer be tempted to scream “you lie!” at President Obama. Or maybe it won’t even accomplish that.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com
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