Wednesday, November 8, 2006

No way to treat babies

In the run-up to Tuesday's elections, a hostile campaign was waged against illegal immigrants by politicians who championed a wall on the Mexican border and advocated rounding up millions of undocumented workers and deporting them.

Now comes a mean-spirited legal interpretation that should delight xenophobes.

The Bush administration says a new Medicaid law requires proof of citizenship for babies born of mothers who are illegal immigrants. However, babies born in the United States, even of illegal immigrants, are automatically considered citizens.

But the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is interpreting the Deficit Reduction Act to mean babies now must have documentation of citizenship before being enrolled in the health care program for the poor.

The most sensible rebuke of this new interpretation comes from Sara Rosenbaum, health law professor at George Washington University: "The new policy reflects a tortured reading of the new law and is contrary to the language of the 1984 statute, which Congress did not change. The whole purpose of the earlier law, passed with bipartisan support, was to make sure that a baby would not have a single day's break in coverage from the date of birth through the first year of life."

Is the nation so desperate to cut costs that it must require bureaucratic paperwork to provide care for newborns who are U.S. citizens under law?

Halliburton may have had less trouble getting $20 billion in no-bid Pentagon contracts in Iraq.

Nothing like penalizing babies for the government's failure to come up with a workable immigration plan.

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