Analysis: Bill Gives Health Coverage to Immigrant Kids
Revised legislation that would reauthorize and expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program contains a loophole that undocumented immigrants and ineligible documented immigrants could exploit to enroll in the program, according to a Heritage Foundation analysis, the Washington Times reports.
Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the conservative foundation and author of the analysis, said that the SCHIP bill would require applicants to provide only a valid Social Security number, rather than proof of citizenship.
According to Rector, that requirement would undo the 1996 welfare policy that restricted documented immigrants from receiving public benefits until they have been in the U.S. for at least five years. He said, "If you're illegal, you're going to have to come up with a valid but bogus Social Security number. If you're a legal permanent resident, you have a Social Security number, it's just a piece of cake for you to walk in," adding, "You couldn't be clearer in their saying, 'We really don't care about that five-year time period." Rector said that undocumented immigrants who have stolen valid Social Security numbers also could enroll in the program.
Democrats have said there is no evidence that undocumented immigrants are abusing the program, and a Government Accountability Office report released earlier this year found that new proof-of-citizenship rules for Medicaid actually prevent eligible residents from enrolling in the program. Supporters of the SCHIP bill said there is nothing in the measure that would affect immigrants' access to the program.
Democratic leaders on Friday said they would send the bill to President Bush, who vetoed an earlier version of the measure. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said, "This legislation, of course, passed the House and Senate with broad bipartisan support, and we urge the president to sign it into law," adding, "We are sending this legislation to the president now because of concerns about a pocket veto if we wait" (Dinan, Washington Times, 12/3).