Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Max Baucus Throws Joe Wilson a Lifeline

Rep. Joe Wilson did an excellent job of discrediting himself and his cause at Wednesday night's speech. But for reasons I won't pretend to understand, Max Baucus and Kent Conrad seem intent on throwing him a lifeline, while at the same time making their bill worse and more cumbersome.

The controversy over Republican Rep. Joe Wilson's shouting out "You Lie!" at the president over his claim that illegal immigrants wouldn't benefit from health-care reform apparently sparked some reconsideration of the relevant language. "We really thought we'd resolved this question of people who are here illegally, but as we reflected on the president's speech last night, we wanted to go back and drill down again," said Senator Kent Conrad, one of the Democrats in the talks after a meeting Thursday morning. Baucus later that afternoon said the group would put in a proof of citizenship requirement to participate in the new health exchange — a move likely to inflame the left.

For comparison's sake, here's what Baucus's framework currently says on page four. "No illegal immigrants will benefit from the health care tax credits." It's not exactly ambiguous. And it wouldn't be considered ambiguous except that Baucus now appears to be going back and saying it was, in fact, ambiguous. The end result here is that his bill will be worse and his opponents will not be mollified in the least. It's really hard to decide what's worse about this move: the politics, which helps out Glenn Beck and the forces of hysteria, or the policy.

The policy being proposed will demand documentation not simply to get premiums, but to participate in the insurance markets. That's a very bad idea. It's a very bad idea because the people you most need to reach — low-income folks, and the unemployed, and legal immigrants — are the least likely to have easy access to documentation and the most likely to get scared off by a lot of paperwork requirements. Any illegal immigrant interested in defrauding the government can get some forged papers and participate, just as happens now. But plenty of the people we actually want to participate will be barred because they haven't updated their ID recently, and they lost their Social Security card years ago.

And as Matt Yglesias says, what we're doing here isn't stopping illegal immigrants from getting subsidies. We're stopping them from purchasing health insurance with their own money. But there's a reason Best Buy doesn't have a citizenship requirement and Safeway doesn't ask for papers. It's cumbersome and inefficient and, at the end of the day, we want people to spend money on things anyway.

Update: Conrad has clarified his remarks and says the proof of citizenship would be used to just to bar illegal immigrants from subsidies, not from purchasing health insurance. That's a bit better. But it's still hard to imagine many illegal immigrants going to their neighborhood insurance exchange and admitting their status, secure in the knowledge that there will be no reprisal. Which means this bill will actually make it much harder for illegal immigrants to get health insurance than it is now, or much more important for illegal immigrants to have good forged documents, or both.

By Ezra Klein  |  September 11, 2009; 12:50 PM ET
 
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: 9/11
Next: Olympia Snowe Bargains With Olympia Snowe

Comments

we were" supposed" to be a country that helped and cared for the least, the last and the lost.
what a soulless spectacle this is becoming.

"Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Posted by: jkaren | September 11, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse

This just goes to show that not only is there nothing a Republican can do to humiliate themselves (hookers, lies, etc.), but there is nothing the Dems will stand against.

Posted by: AZProgressive | September 11, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

The insurance industry doesn't care about the national origin of those who purchase their product. They want as many people as possible to buy the product.

This isn't entirely a bad thing. If an American goes to Europe they aren't going to be shut out of the health care system.

It seems pretty reasonable at this stage though to view whatever contours the Baucus bill takes from the point of view of the insurance industry (e.g. what is their optimal outcome, Max will make it happen).

Baucus deserves to lose his chairmanship.

Posted by: JPRS | September 11, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Isn't "illegal immigrant" a contradiction in terms, since an immigrant is someone who is legally in the country? It seems as though "illegal alien" is the correct terminology.

Posted by: Interceptor402 | September 11, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

And meanwhile, this backfires because the illegal aliens at issue will continue to take up expensive resources at emergency rooms. On a strictly fiscal matter, I don't like this costly new addition. Here's hoping it's dropped in conference.

Posted by: etdean1 | September 11, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Current receivers of Medicaid have to demonstrate citizenship, so at least it wouldn't be an *increased* burden on the poor. Do we have any idea how many people who are eligible for Medicaid aren't getting it because of the issue of having documentation proving citizenship?

I don't know how much of a problem I have with this on the substance, but the optics of ceding to Joe Wilson are absolutely terrible.

Posted by: JWHamner | September 11, 2009 2:03 PM | Report abuse

"It's a very bad idea because the people you most need to reach — low-income folks, and the unemployed, and legal immigrants — are the least likely to have easy access to documentation and the most likely to get scared off by a lot of paperwork requirements."

And that's exactly why they want to do it. Fewer people = lower cost.

So you can't get your papers in order, and you can't get insurance, so you'll get fined by the IRS.

All part of Baucus' master plan to criminalize poverty and get the IRS cracking down on the poor and those with tax offsets.

Speaking of offsets, Ezra, why don't you look into what will happen to poor people with tax offsets when they need to get a tax credit to cover the unaffordability of their newly mandated policy. Just like any other tax credit, will it go to cover the liability? Thus rendering those poor people unable to purchase, and then to rub salt in the wound, hit them up with a fine?

Wonderful liberal democrat policies.

--JC in Montana

Posted by: jc263field | September 11, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Less then an hour ago, I heard a news-break report from either AP or CNN - they stated that "less then 2 days since Congressman Joe Wilson's outburst at the President, the Senate Finance Committee is moving to make sure illegal immigrants will not get health care under HCR". I screamed at the radio because it left the implication that Wilson was right and the Senate Finance Committee was "fixing" the Bill.

Wilson was wrong. The President was telling the truth but Baucus just helped the media and Republicans send out the opposite message. Grrrrrr.

Posted by: Kristi1 | September 11, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

You really should not provide subsidies for illigal immigrants. The right will go crazy over it, and the left isn't going to be thrilled by it either.

All it means is that we need comprehensive immigration reform. We always have.

I wonder when Obama will try to tackle that one. Assuming it will be on 2011, if they haven't lost the majority by then.

Posted by: JERiv | September 11, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Baucus and Conrad are either too dumb to be allowed to speak in public, or are hell-bent on undermining the president. Either way, it makes Harry Reid look even more useless than usual.

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | September 11, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

"The policy being proposed will demand documentation not simply to get premiums, but to participate in the insurance markets. That's a very bad idea. It's a very bad idea because the people you most need to reach — low-income folks, and the unemployed, and legal immigrants — are the least likely to have easy access to documentation and the most likely to get scared off by a lot of paperwork requirements."

This is a basic requirement for getting a job anywhere. If I can't fill out an I-9 on you, I can't hire you. E-Verify is online now too. This should be covered by that.

Posted by: staticvars | September 11, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

follow up to my last comment...
If you are a citizen and don't have the paperwork to fill out an I-9 or satisfy E-Verify, the government needs to help you with THAT problem, since you won't be able to get a job without it!

Posted by: staticvars | September 11, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

It will be interesting to see the exact wording of the legislation: one subsidy is emergency room treatment and a well-worded statute might actually help speed the patch-em-up and ship-em-out process of handling criminal aliens. In any case, the inclusion of even a token provision goes a long way toward reducing needless partisanism.

Posted by: rmgregory | September 11, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

The cost of getting forged documents should go up now. A good set for family sized documents will be worth about $12,000 of free health insurance.

I would suggest they require 3 years tax returns that will be sent to the exchange office not brought in by the person applying for insurance, it would be impossible to forge documents coming "from" the IRS.

Posted by: cautious | September 12, 2009 4:10 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company