Undocumented Immigrants and Health Reform
The New Republic's Jon Cohn talked to some Hill sources last week and they gave him good news: The Congressional Budget Office is scoring early versions of heath reform at $1 trillion over 10 years, rather than $1.5 trillion, or $1.7 trillion, as some had feared. The importance of this is straightforward enough: If Congress's budget agency says health care costs less than expected, then it's easier for Congress to pay for health care. They don't have to raise as much money. If $1 trillion actually proves the final number, then adopting Barack Obama's proposed $634 billion health reform fund would get Congress most of the way there.
The catch is that the lower cost comes, in part, because CBO doubts that universal health coverage is achievable in the short-term. They're suggesting that between a quarter and a third of the uninsured are likely to remain that way even amidst an individual mandate. That's not terribly surprising. Though the CBO doesn't say this, and reformers in general don't like to bring it up, a fair portion of the uninsured are undocumented immigrants. Not a quarter or a third, to be sure. But according to RAND data, we're probably looking at around 6-8 million undocumented immigrants without insurance. And they're very unlikely to be included in health care reform. Which makes sense. As we all know, bacterial infections are not transmissible between individuals with different citizenship status.
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