Theodore's World: Medical Help For Illegal Immigrants Could Haunt Mitt Romney

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October 24, 2011

Medical Help For Illegal Immigrants Could Haunt Mitt Romney

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney sharply criticizes public aid for illegal immigrants. But a healthcare law he signed as governor of Massachusetts allows some to get free medical care. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)


Medical Help For Illegal Immigrants Could Haunt Mitt Romney

Los Angeles Times

By Noam N. Levey, Washington Bureau

October 23, 2011

On the Republican campaign trail, he derides any such public aid. But the healthcare law he signed as Massachusetts governor allows it.

he Massachusetts healthcare law that then-Gov. Mitt Romney signed in 2006 includes a program known as the Health Safety Net, which allows undocumented immigrants to get needed medical care along with others who lack insurance.

Uninsured, poor immigrants can walk into a health clinic or hospital in the state and get publicly subsidized care at virtually no cost to them, regardless of their immigration status.

The program, widely supported in Massachusetts, drew little attention when Romney signed the trailblazing healthcare law. But now it could prove problematic for the Republican presidential hopeful, who has been attacking Texas Gov. Rick Perry for supporting educational aid for children of undocumented immigrants in Texas.

"We have to turn off the magnet of extraordinary government benefits," Romney said at the recent Fox News-Google debate in Florida.

The Massachusetts program, which cost more than $400 million last year, paid for 1.1 million hospital and clinic visits. It's unclear how many undocumented patients benefited because the state does not record that data.

The Romney campaign referred questions to Tim Murphy, who served as Romney's state health and human services secretary. Murphy said the governor never intended the Health Safety Net to serve undocumented immigrants.

"Our view when we signed the law was that all benefits would be for people in the commonwealth who were here legally," Murphy said, noting that the regulations implementing the program were written after Romney left office in 2007.

But Massachusetts officials involved in crafting the healthcare law said there was broad understanding when Romney signed it that at least some people who would benefit would be in the country illegally.

That's supported by language in the law. Although it explicitly bars undocumented immigrants from getting certain health benefits, it does not prohibit them from receiving aid through the Health Safety Net.

For example, the law mandates that only noncitizens "permanently residing in the United States under color of law" may receive government subsidies to buy health insurance.

The law also spells out that undocumented immigrants aren't eligible for the state's Medicaid insurance program for the poor, known as MassHealth.

But the Health Safety Net, in contrast, is off-limits only to people who "moved into the commonwealth for the sole purpose of securing health insurance" or who are eligible for another insurance plan.

"There is no question that lots of different kinds of people, including undocumented immigrants, obtain medically necessary services as result of this program," said John McDonough, a former consumer advocate who worked extensively on the healthcare effort in Massachusetts.

Wild Thing's comment......

Wow! This Romney has got a lot of gall to go after anyone on illegal immigration.

Posted by Wild Thing at October 24, 2011 04:50 AM


Romney is a liberal. He is also a liar who will say whatever is needed for the moment. A debate between Romney and Biden would be an entertaining event. Two liars trying to out lie each other.

Posted by: TomR, armed in Texas at October 24, 2011 12:48 PM

Tom, your so right, he sure is a liar. wow.

LOL that is funny about what you said about a debate like that. hahaa

Posted by: Wild Thing at October 25, 2011 04:22 AM

Mitt looks like Ed Grimley in that photo, I must say.

Posted by: Billy Ray in Cowtown at October 25, 2011 06:35 PM