There’s a whole lot of misinformation being thrown around by people like Jim Ogonowski, his spokesdude Barney Keller, and our own EaBo, about what the SCHIP bill actually does or does not do with respect to benefits for illegal aliens. Personally, I would wager that none of them has actually read not only the bill (which amends existing statutes) but also the statutes already on the books, so that they understand the big picture. They should feel free to prove me wrong on that.
In any event, I have done the work for them, and for anyone else interested in this. My findings are after the flip. Short answer: under the SCHIP bill, beneficiaries must prove that they are in the United States legally. All the bill does is create an alternative way to do that from what’s required under current law. Why is an alternative needed? Because many of the poorest potential beneficiaries of this program will not have a driver’s license or other form of ID required under current law.
The Ogos and EaBos of the world would have you believe that, if the SCHIP bill becomes law, illegal aliens can just waltz into their local benefits office and sign up, perhaps just by saying “yes, I’m legal.” That is false. Read on to see why.
First, a word of warning: federal statutes in general, and statutes about programs like SCHIP in particular, are notoriously impenetrable. Much legalese ahead.
OK, so what’s really going on here? The part of the SCHIP bill causing all the trouble is section 211, entitled “VERIFICATION OF DECLARATION OF CITIZENSHIP OR NATIONALITY FOR PURPOSES OF ELIGIBILITY FOR MEDICAID AND CHIP.” It is part of Subtitle B, entitled “Reducing Barriers to Enrollment.”
The current law on verification appears in section 1903(x) of the SCHIP law, 42 USC 1396b(x). I can’t supply a link to the current text, because section (x) is new enough that it’s not yet in the online US Code compilations. It was added here (section 6036), and amended here (section 405(c)).
Under s. 1903(x), all beneficiaries must prove eligibility by the familiar “either one from column (A), or one each from columns (B) and (C)” test. Column (A) includes passports, driver’s licenses issued by states that check citizenship before issuing them, and green cards. Column (B) is birth certificates of various kinds, and column (C) is, again, a driver’s license or other state-issued photo ID. I’m simplifying the descriptions here a bit; the full version is, as noted above, in section 6036 of this statute.
Immediately, we see the problem for an American citizen who has no passport and no driver’s license: there’s no obvious way to prove eligibility. That, presumably, is the motivation behind the amendment that creates an alternative mechanism.
Under s. 211 of the SCHIP bill, states must either require beneficiaries to satisfy the existing rules in s. 1903(x), or the new procedure set forth in a new section, called section 1902(ee) (42 USC 1392a(ee)). In short, section (ee) requires the state to submit the name and social security number of the applicant to the Commissioner of Social Security; if the Commissioner informs the state that the name doesn’t match the number, the applicant has 90 days to explain the problem or supply other evidence of eligibility. If the applicant can’t do that, the state must disenroll the applicant within 30 days of the end of the 90 day period. Here’s the long version:
`(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 of the individual is invalid–
`(i) the State makes a reasonable effort to identify and address the causes of such invalid match, including through typographical or other clerical errors, by contacting the individual to confirm the accuracy of the name or social security number, respectively, submitted, 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 that the name or social security number of the individual remains invalid after such reasonable efforts, 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 cure the invalid determination 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 invalid determination is not cured.
`(2)(A) Each State electing to satisfy the requirements of this subsection for purposes of section 1902(a)(46)(B) shall establish a program under which the State submits each month to the Commissioner of Social Security for verification the name and social security number of each individual newly enrolled in the State plan under this title that month who is not described in section 1903(x)(2).
`(B) In establishing the State program under this paragraph, the State may enter into an agreement with the Commissioner of Social Security–
`(i) to provide for the electronic submission and verification, through an on-line system or otherwise, of the name and social security number of an individual enrolled in the State plan under this title;
`(ii) to submit to the Commissioner the names and social security numbers of such individuals on a batch basis, provided that such batches are submitted at least on a monthly basis; or
`(iii) to provide for the verification of the names and social security numbers of such individuals through such other method as agreed to by the State and the Commissioner and approved by the Secretary, provided that such method is no more burdensome for individuals to comply with than any burdens that may apply under a method described in clause (i) or (ii).
Oh, and one more thing — there is indeed a penalty for trying to game the system:
The Federal government and numerous states have passed laws prohibiting identity theft. Anyone who intentionally uses the Social Security number of another person to establish a new identity or defraud the government is breaking the law.
So: under the SCHIP bill, applicants have (basically) three options: passport, driver’s license, or valid social security number. Falsifying any of those is a crime. Personally, I don’t see the problem, and I don’t think the folks squawking about “giveaways” to illegal aliens, or illegal aliens “steal[ing] from poor children,” have a leg to stand on.
If someone would care to explain how I have misread the bill, or why the above is insufficient to establish eligibility, I’m all ears.