On Friday, President Trump issued a proclamation requiring certain immigrants entering the country either to purchase health insurance, or demonstrate they can pay their medical bills. The order prompted no small amount of hysteria from the left over the weekend.
If you’re puzzled by this development, you might not be the only one. After all, don’t liberals want everyone to have health insurance? They have spent significant time and effort attacking President Trump for a (slight) increase in the number of uninsured people while he’s been president.
However, this rhetoric reflects a recent, profound change in the left’s belief structure. Whereas only a few years ago, liberals admitted that “free” health benefits would attract more unlawful migration, now they support few limits on either migration, or the expansion of the welfare state to include illegal entrants into the United States.
What the Proclamation Says
The proclamation itself, which will take effect on November 3 (30 days from Friday), limits “the entry into the United States as immigrants of aliens who will financially burden” the American health care system. It requires aliens applying for immigrant visas to become “covered by approved health insurance…within 30 days” of entry, or “possess…the financial resources to pay for reasonably foreseeable medical costs.”
The proclamation includes numerous different acceptable forms of health insurance: employer plans (including association health plans and COBRA coverage), catastrophic plans, short-term limited duration insurance, coverage through Tricare or Medicare, or visitor health coverage lasting a minimum of 364 days. The list of acceptable forms of insurance does not, however, include subsidized Obamacare exchange plans, or Medicaid coverage for individuals over age 18—likely because these options involve federal taxpayer subsidies.
What the Proclamation Doesn’t Say
It shouldn’t need stating outright, but contrary to claims that the proclamation constitutes a “racist attack on a community who deserves health care,” the order says not a word about a specific race, or national or ethnic group. It also exempts “any alien holding a valid immigrant visa issued before the effective date of this proclamation,” meaning the requirement will apply prospectively and not retrospectively.
Charges that the order “will separate U.S. citizens from their legal immigrant spouses and loved ones” also appear overstated, for several reasons. First, Section 2(b)(iii) of the order explicitly exempts “any alien who is the child of a United States citizen” from the requirement. Second, Section 2(c) states that the requirement “does not affect the entry of aliens entering the United States through means other than immigrant visas, including lawful permanent residents.” Third, citizens whose loved ones don’t fall into either of the first two categories can cover their spouses on their employer policy or other form of insurance, as outlined in the proclamation.
Liberal reporters claimed that “the move effectively creates a health insurance mandate for immigrants,” after Republicans eliminated Obamacare’s individual mandate penalty. But this charge too ignores the fact that the proclamation—unlike Obamacare—includes an exception for those who “possess…the financial resources to pay for reasonably foreseeable medical costs.” (The proclamation does not define this term, meaning that the administration will presumably go through a rulemaking process to do so.)
The Real Story
Liberals’ hysteria over the issue demonstrates a massive shift leftward in recent years. Consider that in 1993, Hillary Clinton testified before Congress that she opposed extending benefits to “illegal aliens,” because it would encourage additional migration to the United States:
We do not think the comprehensive health care benefits should be extended to those who are undocumented workers and illegal aliens. We do not want to do anything to encourage more illegal immigration into this country. We know now that too many people come in for medical care, as it is. We certainly don’t want them having the same benefits that American citizens are entitled to have.
Compare her stance to the position taken by Democrats at this past June’s presidential debate, when all the candidates raised their hand when asked “if your government plan would provide coverage for undocumented immigrants:”
Even in 2009, Barack Obama felt the need to claim that his health plan wouldn’t cover those in the country illegally (even if the claim didn’t stand up to scrutiny). The fact that Democrats have now gone far beyond Obama’s position, and have attacked President Trump for ensuring foreign citizens will not burden our health care system—a position liberals claim to support for Americans—speaks to the party’s full-on embrace of both socialism and open borders.