Dobbs again promoted GOP claims that SCHIP could benefit undocumented immigrants

››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

CNN's Lisa Sylvester again uncritically reported Republican claims that "people living in the United States illegally might be able to access" health insurance benefits under new legislation extending SCHIP. Lou Dobbs also stated that "opponents say it will make it easier for illegal aliens to receive taxpayer-funded health insurance." But neither Sylvester nor Dobbs noted that the legislation includes a citizenship verification process in which states would use SCHIP applicants' names and Social Security numbers to verify that they are eligible.

On the February 4 broadcast of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, correspondent Lisa Sylvester again uncritically reported Republican claims that legislation extending the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) -- signed that day by President Obama -- "loosens the identity document requirement so that even people living in the United States illegally might be able to access the program." Introducing the report, host Lou Dobbs also stated that "opponents say it will make it easier for illegal aliens to receive taxpayer-funded health insurance." During the report, onscreen text read: "Healthcare For Illegal Aliens," and "New law may give healthcare to illegal aliens." However, neither Sylvester nor Dobbs mentioned that the legislation includes a citizenship verification process in which states would use SCHIP applicants' names and Social Security numbers to verify that they are eligible, as Media Matters for America has noted.

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Sylvester also included in her report a video clip of Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA) stating, "[W]e're saying we're going to open it up to anybody who just wants to tell you they're a citizen." Following her report, Sylvester said to Dobbs, "Representative Michael Burgess [R-TX] said that you have to show your ID before you cash a check at a grocery store, so why wouldn't we require someone to show identification before they receive this health care benefit?" Dobbs replied: "I guess it's because it's just our money, Lisa, ours and our fellow citizens' money. They're not too concerned about that, I think, in Washington, D.C. That's amazing."

However, neither Sylvester nor Dobbs mentioned that the legislation, H.R. 2, would provide an "Alternative State Process for Verification of Declaration of Citizenship or Nationality for Purposes of Eligibility for Medicaid," under which individuals could prove their eligibility by providing their name and Social Security number to state officials, rather than by providing "documentary evidence of citizenship or nationality." Specifically, applicants' Social Security numbers would be checked against "records maintained by the Commissioner [of Social Security]" and, in the case of unresolved "inconsisten[cies]," individuals could ultimately be "disenroll[ed] ... from the State plan."

From H.R. 2, Title II, Subtitle B, Section 211:

SEC. 211. VERIFICATION OF DECLARATION OF CITIZENSHIP OR NATIONALITY FOR PURPOSES OF ELIGIBILITY FOR MEDICAID AND CHIP.

(a) Alternative State Process for Verification of Declaration of Citizenship or Nationality for Purposes of Eligibility for Medicaid-

(1) ALTERNATIVE TO DOCUMENTATION REQUIREMENT-

[...]

"(ee)(1) For purposes of subsection (a)(46)(B)(ii), the requirements of this subsection with respect to an individual declaring to be a citizen or national of the United States for purposes of establishing eligibility under this title, are, in lieu of requiring the individual to present satisfactory documentary evidence of citizenship or nationality under section 1903(x) (if the individual is not described in paragraph (2) of that section), as follows:

"(A) The State submits the name and social security number of the individual to the Commissioner of Social Security as part of the program established under paragraph (2).

"(B) If the State receives notice from the Commissioner of Social Security that the name or social security number, or the declaration of citizenship or nationality, of the individual is inconsistent with information in the records maintained by the Commissioner --

"(i) the State makes a reasonable effort to identify and address the causes of such inconsistency, including through typographical or other clerical errors, by contacting the individual to confirm the accuracy of the name or social security number submitted or declaration of citizenship or nationality and by taking such additional actions as the Secretary, through regulation or other guidance, or the State may identify, and continues to provide the individual with medical assistance while making such effort; and

"(ii) in the case such inconsistency is not resolved under clause (i), the State--

"(I) notifies the individual of such fact;

"(II) provides the individual with a period of 90 days from the date on which the notice required under subclause (I) is received by the individual to either present satisfactory documentary evidence of citizenship or nationality (as defined in section 1903(x)(3)) or resolve the inconsistency with the Commissioner of Social Security (and continues to provide the individual with medical assistance during such 90-day period); and

"(III) disenrolls the individual from the State plan under this title within 30 days after the end of such 90-day period if no such documentary evidence is presented or if such inconsistency is not resolved.

The Congressional Budget Office also outlined the bill's "alternative citizenship verification process" in its cost estimate:

Verification of Declaration of Citizenship or Nationality for Purposes of Eligibility for Medicaid and CHIP. The bill would provide an alternative citizenship verification process for states when determining Medicaid eligibility. Instead of presenting satisfactory documentary evidence as required under the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, states could submit the name and Social Security number of the individual to the Commissioner of Social Security. The Commissioner would then determine whether the name and Social Security number provided by the state is consistent with information in the records maintained by the Commissioner. If the information is not consistent, the state would make a reasonable effort to address the causes of the inconsistency. If the inconsistency cannot be resolved, the individual would be disenrolled from the program. The bill also would apply the verification process to the Children's Health Insurance Program.

The SCHIP bill also explicitly states in Section 605 that "[n]othing in this Act allows Federal payment for individuals who are not lawfully residing in the United States":

SEC. 605. NO FEDERAL FUNDING FOR ILLEGAL ALIENS.

Nothing in this Act allows Federal payment for individuals who are not lawfully residing in the United States. Titles XI, XIX, and XXI of the Social Security Act provide for the disallowance of Federal financial participation for erroneous expenditures under Medicaid and under CHIP, respectively.

From the February 4 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:

DOBBS: President Obama today signed into law the SCHIP legislation. That legislation expanding children's health coverage, but opponents say it will make it easier for illegal aliens to receive taxpayer-funded health insurance. They also warn that it expands government and title programs at a time when the federal government is already bloated. Lisa Sylvester has our report.

[begin video clip]

SYLVESTER: Twice vetoed by President Bush, the SCHIP legislation was made law by President Obama.

OBAMA: In a decent society, there are certain obligations that are not subject to tradeoffs or negotiations, and health care for our children is one of those obligations.

SYLVESTER: The law reauthorizes the children's insurance program for 7 million kids, expands the program to 4 million more, and allows children of legal immigrants to sign up. The additional cost, $32.8 billion, paid for with the 62-cent cigarette tax.

REP. ANNA ESHOO (D-CA): Today, a promise is being kept to America's children. They will be insured with health insurance.

SYLVESTER: But SCHIP was hotly debated in Congress, Republicans leading the opposition, arguing that it will expand government-sponsored health insurance, and that it loosens the identity document requirement so that even people living in the United States illegally might be able to access the program.

DEAL: At a time when we are hearing people saying, "We want you to secure our borders. We want you to protect us," we're saying we're going to open it up to anybody who just wants to tell you they're a citizen.

SYLVESTER: Other groups take issue with the cigarette tax, pointing to a campaign promise by President Obama of no new taxes for those making less than $250,000 a year.

PHIL KERPEN (director of policy for Americans for Prosperity): So this tax is going to fall very heavily on lower-income and middle-income folks who were promised that they wouldn't see any tax increases.

SYLVESTER: Republicans offered amendments to change the legislation, but with Democrats now running the show on Capitol Hill, most of their concerns were brushed aside.

[end video clip]

SYLVESTER: And on loosening the identity checks, Representative Michael Burgess said that you have to show your ID before you cash a check at a grocery store, so why wouldn't we require someone to show identification before they receive this health care benefit? Lou.

DOBBS: I guess it's because it's just our money, Lisa, ours and our fellow citizens' money. They're not too concerned about that, I think, in Washington, D.C. That's amazing.

SYLVESTER: Yeah. And, you know, I think it's the obvious thing, but, oftentimes in Washington, on Capitol Hill, they don't really necessarily do what is obvious or right, Lou.

DOBBS: As I have noticed here of late, Lisa, thank you very much. I know you have as well. Lisa Sylvester, thank you very much.

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