New Illegal Immigration Problem Looms for Romney

His 2006 health-care law provides medical care to undocumented immigrants

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Oct 24, 2011 9:59 AM CDT

(Newser) – In last week's angry debate, Rick Perry resurrected allegations that Mitt Romney hired a lawn service that used undocumented immigrants—and that may not be the final illegal immigrant discussion Romney gets pulled into. The Los Angeles Times reports that his 2006 health care law's Health Safety Net program allows the uninsured—and, by extension, uninsured illegal immigrants—to get basically free care at any health clinic or hospital in Massachusetts. Supporters say the program, which cost more than $400 million last year, actually saves money in the long run, because it keeps the uninsured from seeking care at a more expensive hospital emergency room.

Last year, the Health Safety Net program paid for 1.1 million hospital and clinic visits, but there is no data on how many of those were for undocumented patients. Romney’s former state health and human services secretary says the governor did not intend for the program to serve illegal immigrants, but other officials tell the LAT it was understood that some undocumented immigrants would indeed benefit. The law explicitly prohibits illegal immigrants from some of the benefits (like receiving government subsidies to purchase insurance), but does not bar them from Health Safety Net. (In other Romney-Perry news: Things get even more unfriendly.)

Mitt Romney participates in the Republican presidential debate airing on CNN, October 18, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Mitt Romney participates in the Republican presidential debate airing on CNN, October 18, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada.   (Getty Images)
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