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DEBATE REVIEW: Democrats upend health care issue by supporting benefits for illegal immigrants

Answering a question in regard to if their government health care plan would provide benefits to illegal immigrants, all ten Democrat Presidential candidates raise their hands.

MIAMI, FLORIDA – One question asked during the Democratic Presidential Primary debate hosted by MSNBC last week appears to have upended the debate in America about health care.

After several election cycles of Democrats arguing for an Obamacare mandate that imposed fines on Americans who sometimes could not afford to purchase health insurance amid rising insurance rates, the conversation has now turned to the idea of providing free health care to individuals who are not legally present in the United States.

During the second night of the debate, when asked by moderator Savannah Guthrie to raise their hands if their health care plan would cover “undocumented immigrants”, every single candidate, including Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders, raised their hands.

Contrast that position with the 2009 position of Barack Obama, who, when selling his Obamacare plan, promised the plan would not cover undocumented immigrants. That claim was the trigger that caused Rep. Joe Wilson to shout “you lie” at President Obama during his State of the Union Address.

President Trump immediately pounced on the position of Democrats, tweeting, “All Democrats just raised their hands for giving millions of illegal aliens unlimited healthcare. How about taking care of American Citizens first!? That’s the end of that race!”

The evolution of the Democrat position over the course of a decade is astounding.

In 2009, the position was that Americans should pay a fine if they can’t afford, or don’t buy health insurance, because adding people to the insurance pool would bring down rates, but that illegal immigrants should not qualify for health care subsidies or benefits.

In 2019, the defense of the mandate and fines under Obamacare still remains, but now Democrats support providing free health care to illegal immigrants through a plan that, even many of them will admit, will require a middle-class tax increase.

While Democrats may in the future try to free themselves from the triple entanglement of fines for Americans who can’t afford health insurance; middle-class tax hikes for a government takeover of health care; and a taxpayer funded benefits for illegal immigrants – President Trump will be able to campaign on what he has done to help the American people on health care.

President Trump has implemented rules around Health Reimbursement Arrangements that are projected to help 11 million additional American workers get health insurance. HRA’s were forbidden under the Obama administration, but are supported by many in America’s small business community because they allow workers to access a more affordable individual health insurance market if their employer is struggling with the cost of group coverage.

Not content to tinker only with that one change, President Trump followed it up last week with an executive order to increase transparency in health care pricing. That order is designed to increase transparency, make health care services shoppable and prevent so-called ‘surprise billing’ of Americans by out-of-network providers.

These two orders follow actions by President Trump to enhance the ability of Americans to buy insurance across state lines and to eliminate Obamacare’s individual mandate. Congress did eventually end the individual mandate in the 2017 tax cut bill known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

All these factors lead to a shifted dynamic in 2020.

Consider the Trump reforms, along with measures being taken at the state level across the country to protect individuals with pre-existing conditions, or to stabilize and potentially reduce health insurance rates with invisible risk pools, and the dynamics have undoubtedly changed.

In Maine, state level changes include nearly unanimous support of a bill protecting coverage for Americans with pre-existing conditions and efforts to reduce drug costs, among other measures.

In Louisiana, the first state level GOP alternative to Obamacare, based on reforms passed in Maine before Obamacare became law, was recently signed into law by that state’s Democratic Governor.

The revelation of the new position of Democrat Presidential candidates on health care for illegal immigrants was not solely contained within the Presidential race.

Republican National Committee spokeswoman Nina McLaughlin released a statement calling the position “beyond extreme” and saying, “This begs the question – does Rep. Jared Golden agree with the standard-bearers of his party that illegal immigrants should receive healthcare at the expense of taxpayers? The people of Maine deserve to know.”

Only time will tell how the issue of health care is debated in the months leading up to the general election, but one thing is certain, it will not be the same debate as 2010, or even 2018.

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