Washington Times misleads on healthcare, illegal immigrants

A new myth about one of the right's favorite talking points on healthcare reform comes to life

By Alex Koppelman
Published September 28, 2009 7:45PM (EDT)

The issue of whether or not illegal immigrants would be covered under Democrats' healthcare reform proposals has been, to put it mildly, a hot-button one. The fact that many conservatives, including congressional Republicans, mistakenly believe that illegal immigrants would, in fact, get coverage from the government hasn't helped matters. Even the White House's post-Joe Wilson policy shift, an announcement that the administration doesn't want undocumented immigrants allowed to purchase insurance through a planned exchange, didn't seem to have much effect.

The Washington Times added some fuel to the fire Monday with an article headlined "Liberals seek health-care acess for illegals." Unfortunately, the paper doesn't have the best record of prizing accuracy over politics, especially not when it comes to issues of immigration, and this article continued that tradition. 

The Times' story was just too reductive, as the response to it from conservative bloggers showed all too well. While it does make clear what's actually going on -- 21 House Democrats want illegal immigrants given access to the proposed exchange -- the primary impression from the aritcle is that some liberals want to see illegal immigrants actually given coverage. That's not what would happen if the proposal in question passed. The exchange is envisioned as a way for private individuals and small businesses to buy insurance at a lower cost; the idea is that they'd be pooled together, and so have greater bargaining power. Those participating in the exchange wouldn't automatically get any sort of government subsidy for their healthcare.

The Times piece also failed to note one other key bit of information: With the White House having come out against this idea, there's almost no way it'll pass. The irony here, actually, is that the Democratic proposals might actually have the effect of making it tougher for illegal immigrants to buy health insurance. Problem is, even though that's what conservatives seem to want, it's not what they want to hear.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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Healthcare Reform Immigration Reform The Washington Times War Room