At his confirmation hearings this week before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions and Senate Finance Committees, Secretary of Health and Human Services-designee Xavier Becerra will talk about many subjects. Press reports prior to the hearings indicate he will highlight his claimed efforts as a member of Congress “to strengthen and modernize Medicare and how we finance it”—ironic claims from someone who voted for an Obamacare law that raided Medicare.
But as an in-depth Politico article noted, Becerra has had one health-care cause near and dear to his heart during his three decades in public life: Extending health coverage to foreign workers who broke U.S. law to enter the United States. More to the point, as the article observed, if confirmed Becerra “will have the power to make public benefits for undocumented workers a reality”—which would raise taxpayer costs, while encouraging additional law-breaking.
Previews of Becerra’s testimony suggest that, like many on the left, his advocacy for the undocumented may be well-intentioned. When Becerra’s mother suffered a life-threatening bleed following a miscarriage, he says his father’s union coverage helped the family pay for their medical expenses.
It seems natural someone with this story would want others protected from financial injury. Yet the single-payer health care plan Becerra supports would abolish union health plans like the one his father once held.
Becerra’s apparently kind intentions also come at a cost to the Americans he aims to be put in place to serve. Providing taxpayer-sponsored health care to individuals and families who break U.S. laws will only further encourage illegal immigration—at a time the border crisis has already escalated under the Biden administration’s refusal to enforce the laws.
As the saying goes, you don’t have to take my word for it. In 1993, none other than Hillary Clinton testified before Congress that providing health coverage to “undocumented workers and illegal aliens” would exacerbate the United States’ immigration problems:
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.
Possible Executive Actions
Politico noted several unilateral actions Becerra could take to accomplish this goal. For instance, “with a stroke of his pen, he could issue first-of-their-kind waivers…allowing undocumented immigrants, roughly half of whom are uninsured, access to state health [insurance] Exchanges.”
He could encourage states to cover these populations through Medicaid, as Becerra’s home state of California has done using state-only funds, or attempt to extend taxpayer programs to so-called “DREAMers” who allegedly entered the United States illegally as minors, or both.
These positions could well have support from President Biden. While in 2008 candidate Biden opposed making taxpayers cover illegally present foreign citizens as part of his health-care plan, he changed his position in 2019. Specifically, Biden said that “anyone who is in a situation where they are in need of health care, regardless of whether they are documented or undocumented, we have an obligation to see that they are cared for.”
New Waves of Migrants?
The potential for federally subsidized health benefits comes at the same time as Biden’s proposals for a de facto immigration amnesty. Coupled with California’s renewed attempts to enact a single-payer system—a plan Becerra also supports—the efforts will only prompt additional migrants to surge towards our southern border.
Americans who voted for Biden to help end the coronavirus pandemic likely didn’t want him to create more crises. But the likely effects of policies advocated by both Biden and Becerra include replacing a COVID crisis with a border and financial crisis.