IMMIGRATION AND HEALTH REFORM -- STILL A PROBLEM.

In an interview with our dearly departed Ezra, White House health policy czar Nancy-Ann DeParle confirms what I've been reporting -- that abortion is one of "six to 10" issues stalemating the Senate Finance Committee "Gang of Six." (For more on the background of that debate, check out my fresh-off-the-presses feature report.) But DeParle also mentions another combustible social issue -- immigration.

You're probably saying, but wait! I thought none of the health bills extend coverage to undocumented immigrants! That's true, but because President Obama has said comprehensive immigration reform -- including a path to legalization -- is on his agenda for later this year, anti-immigrant legislators are agitating about the eventual inclusion of today's illegals in tomorrow's health care system. They'd like to "contain costs" by writing a provision into health reform barring future legalized residents, at least for a period of time, from accessing government subsidized health care, as all current legal residents would be able to do. They'd also like language in the bill requiring government agencies to verify legal residency before enrolling people in the public plan or providing them with subsidies to purchase private insurance.

Giving immigrants a path to legal residency without equal access to health care would not only be inhumane, it would be awful for low-income Americans. Why would an employer hire an American citizen, for whom he will have to provide health coverage, when he could instead hire a perfectly legal new resident, who is exempt from health insurance mandates?

--Dana Goldstein

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