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Politics Fact check: Biden does not say taxpayers are obligated to pay health care for immigrants

22:33  24 july  2020
22:33  24 july  2020 Source:   usatoday.com

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The claim: Biden says U.S. taxpayers have an 'obligation' to pay for health care for millions of undocumented immigrants

A June 21 post on Facebook claims that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden says American taxpayers are obligated to pay for health care for an estimated 12 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally.

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The issue heated up as the presidential campaigns went into full gear in 2019. And Biden has laid out his position in interviews, forums and position papers.

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The claim on Facebook, which was shared more than 65,000 times, stems from a TV clip carried by Blaze TV in which Biden responds to a reporter's question on May 9, 2019:

Reporter: "Do you think undocumented immigrants who were in this country and are law abiding should be entitled to federal benefits for Medicare, Medicaid, for example."

Biden: "I think 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 to that they're cared for."

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Although the issue of funding was not addressed, Blaze TV titled a social media posting of the exchange: "Joe Biden Says U.S. Taxpayers Have an ‘Obligation’ to Pay for 11M Illegal Immigrants’ Healthcare."

That headline was replicated in the recent Facebook post by user Rosemary Susie Lourcey. USA TODAY has reached out to her for comment.

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A debate topic: Health care, immigrants

On June 27, 2019, the issue of health care and immigrants who are in the country illegally was raised during a Democratic debate. The 10 candidates on stage — including Biden — were asked to raise their hand "if your government plan would provide coverage for undocumented immigrants." Biden joined all the other candidates in raising his hand.

Eight days later, on July 5, 2019, Biden addresses the question again in an interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo, who asked if the candidate believes that people here illegally "should have health care in this country."

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Biden responded: "I think undocumented people need to have a means by which they can be covered when they're sick. And so the idea is that's what I think we should be doing by building more clinics around the country. Not just for undocumented, for other people when they're ill, when they're sick. People need — this is just common decency."

Cuomo: "Well over 50% of people polled say undocumented people shouldn't have health care on our dime."

Biden: "Well, I mean, I'll tell you something. In an emergency, they should have health care. Everybody should. Anybody here in the country. How do you say, 'You're undocumented. I'm going to let you die, man? What are you going to do?'"

Providing emergency help is already mandated under federal law. The 1986 Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act requires hospitals with emergency departments to provide for "an appropriate medical screening" and required treatment to stabilize the condition of any patient seeking emergency medical help.

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What 'Bidencare' would offer

In December 2019, in an interview with Telemundo, Biden expanded on the topic by saying that "Bidencare"  — a proposed expansion of the Affordable Care Act — would provide 12 million immigrants who are here illegally with "a public option and they'd be able to buy in just like anyone else could."

While that would provide access, Biden's public option would not be publicly subsidized. The ACA does not allow immigrants in the U.S. illegally to buy into the system.

On July 8, the Biden team most directly addressed the issue through the release of the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force, which spelled out joint policy positions hammered out by Biden and his one-time presidential rival Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont.

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“To ensure that people living and working across the country have health care access, the Task Force recommends extending Affordable Care Act coverage to DACA recipients, allowing undocumented immigrants to purchase unsubsidized coverage in the ACA marketplaces …”

The issue is not specially raised in the campaign's official health plan issued by the Biden campaign in Iowa in April 2019.

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The Biden campaign did not reply to a request for further comment.

Our ruling: False

There is no evidence showing Biden saying that U.S. taxpayers have an obligation to provide health care for undocumented immigrants, beyond the emergency treatment they are already eligible for under federal law. His proposals for dealing with the issue involve allowing access to a public option, which, under his plan, is not taxpayer subsidized. The evidence addresses what he, or his team, have stated, not with the feasibility of such a plan.

Our fact-check sources:

  • Biden interview, May 9, 2019, YouTube
  • CNN, interview, July 5, 2019. Transcript
  • Democratic Presidential Debate, NBC News, June 27, 2019.
  • Biden Health Care Plan
  • Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force Recommendations

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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Biden does not say taxpayers are obligated to pay health care for immigrants

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