DALTON, Georgia – Supporters of the U.S. House version of immigration reform blamed illegal immigrants Tuesday for putting undue strain on the nation's health care system.
At a congressional field hearing organized by House Republicans, politicians and health care officials said more needs to be done to require people seeking government health benefits to prove they are in the country legally.
"Fewer poor Americans get Medicaid because illegal aliens get Medicaid," said Rep. Charlie Norwood, a Republican member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. "It's that simple."
Critics of the plan, however, argue that problems with the nation's health system go far beyond immigration, and said illegal immigrants are being unfairly used as scapegoats.
"Immigrants use less health care services than American citizens; immigrants use emergency rooms less than nonimmigrants," said Rep. Hilda Solis, the lone Congressional Democrat at the hearing. "The real problem with our health system is not immigrants, but the fact the system is broken."
Congress remains deadlocked between House and Senate versions of immigration reform. House Republicans say the Senate plan does not go far enough, and object to provisions including one that would allow some illegal immigrants now in the U.S. to work toward becoming citizens.