Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is defending himself today against a new report claiming the Massachusetts health care law he signed as governor in 2006 is now giving illegal immigrants increased access to health care.
The report from the Los Angeles Times points specifically to the law's Health Safety Net program, which allows uninsured immigrants publicly subsidized care at state health clinics and hospitals, despite their immigration status.
According to the Times, the program cost more than $400 million last year, and paid for 1.1 million hospital and clinic visits. But there is no data on how many of those visits were from illegal immigrants since the state does not keep records of that data.
The Romney campaign responded, blaming the former Massachusetts governor's successor.
"Federal law requires emergency medical care for illegal immigrants. And if illegal immigrants are getting access to additional healthcare in Massachusetts, it's liberal Gov. Duval Patrick that has made it easier for them to do so," Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul said. "All of the regulatory activities involving the Health Safety Net Fund, including who could get care, were made long after Mitt Romney left office."
Rick Perry senior advisor Deirdre Delisi argues if Romney had truly intended for illegals to be excluded from free health care, he would have put language preventing their coverage in the "Health Safety Net" section before signing the entire health care plan into law.
Romney has been attacking his rival Governor Rick Perry for supporting in-state tuition benefits for children of undocumented immigrants in Texas, calling that program a magnet for illegal immigration. Today, Perry's campaign also fired back on that saying, "Governor Romney's government-mandated health care plan provided free care for illegal immigrants in Massachusetts, establishing just the kind of illegal immigration magnet Governor Romney claims to oppose."