The Flawed Logic of Banning Immigrants from the Insurance Exchange.

Should illegal immigrants be able to purchase private health insurance within the newly created federal exchanges if they use their own money? That question, as I noted yesterday, is one of the biggest sticking points in the fight about immigration in the health-care bill. The Senate supports such a prohibition, while the House hasn't done so. Spooked early this fall on by accusations that the bill would cover illegal immigrants -- e.g. Joe “You Lie!” Wilson -- the White House has made it clear that it prefers the Senate's prohibition. Congressional Democrats wary of looking soft on illegal immigrants have echoed such concerns: Rep. Gerald Connolly told The Washington Post yesterday that he wants to make sure that those "who are here illegally cannot avail themselves of the infrastructure that we're creating."

But what these wary Dems seem to be overlooking is just how extreme such a prohibition would be. Those who advocate for cracking down on illegal immigrants always insist that taxpayer money shouldn't be spent on supporting their welfare. But the federal government wouldn't be spending any more money if it allowed unauthorized immigrants to purchase private plans on the exchange, as they wouldn't be receiving any subsidies to do so. And, yes, while taxpayer dollars are subsidizing the infrastructure for the private insurance exchange, the same can be said for the nation's public transportation system, energy supplies, and agricultural output. Should unauthorized immigrants also be prohibited from riding buses, filling up a tank of gas, or buying groceries because these industries are supported by federal subsidies and infrastructure? That's essentially the logic that those who want to exclude illegal immigrants from the exchange are subscribing to.

--Suzy Khimm

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