As part of his gubernatorial campaign’s bus tour, Sec. of State Brian Kemp gave a talk inside of what was once a jail cell advocating a crackdown on immigration. As has become typical of the Republican rhetoric on immigration, his speech was full of hateful, confusing half-truths.
The crux of his talk was about how undocumented immigrants are driving up the cost of heathcare. He said it was “insane” that undocumented immigrants get healthcare coverage when “residents are getting priced out of the market.”
It is hard to figure out where his information about undocumented immigrants and healthcare is coming from. Neither undocumented immigrants nor DACA recipients, commonly known as “Dreamers,” are eligible for healthcare under the Affordable Care Act. They also can’t collect Medicare or Medicaid.
There are a few states that will allow undocumented immigrants under 18 to receive healthcare benefits, but Georgia isn’t one of them. Some universities will allow full-time students to get healthcare coverage through the university without asking for immigration status, but that doesn’t happen often in Georgia.
There is “Emergency Medicaid,” which goes to reimburse hospitals that treat undocumented immigrants that can’t pay their medical bills. But Emergency Medicaid makes up less than one percent of the Medicaid budget.
It seems Kemp may be trying to make undocumented immigrants a scapegoat for the rural hospital crisis. All throughout Georgia rural hospitals are closing because Georgia chose not to expand the Affordable Care Act and as a result, very few people can afford to pay their medical bills.
But the hospital crisis is Deal’s fault for not expanding Medicaid. Kemp can’t make immigrants the scapegoat for Republicans’ poor choices. It’s unfair, and flat-out wrong, to say that immigrants are driving up healthcare prices. Immigrants pay taxes, start about a third of Georgia’s new businesses each year, and fill critical roles in Georgia’s high-need sectors.