Somebody's oppo machine was busy over the weekend. Noam Levey reports in the LA Times today that although Mitt Romney's Massachussetts healthcare reform bars illegal immigrants from receiving insurance subsidies, and bars illegal immigrants from receiving Medicaid, it doesn't explicitly bar them from the absolute bottom rung of medical care:
The Massachusetts healthcare law that then-Gov. Mitt Romney signed in 2006 includes a program known as the Health Safety Net, which allows undocumented immigrants to get needed medical care along with others who lack insurance.
Uninsured, poor immigrants can walk into a health clinic or hospital in the state and get publicly subsidized care at virtually no cost to them, regardless of their immigration status.
Somebody in a rival campaign presumably thinks this is a useful campaign issue because the slavering masses of the tea party base won't be appeased until illegal immigrants are literally writhing in the streets while doctors walk by and pointedly ignore them. Allowing them access to even last-ditch health services is unacceptable, even if the pointy-heads insist that we're saving money in the long run because it keeps them out of emergency rooms.
That's my guess, anyway. In any case, this being the super slick Romney campaign, not the shambolic chaos that passes for one in Rick Perry's camp, a super slick answer was probably prepared months ago and deposited into Romney's real-time enterprise response database, where it could be plucked out at a moment's notice. Surprisingly, though, not really:
The Romney campaign referred questions to Tim Murphy, who served as Romney's state health and human services secretary. Murphy said the governor never intended the Health Safety Net to serve undocumented immigrants.
"Our view when we signed the law was that all benefits would be for people in the commonwealth who were here legally," Murphy said, noting that the regulations implementing the program were written after Romney left office in 2007.
That's it? That's their best shot? I predict that this will persuade exactly no one. The real answer, of course, is that back in 2006 Romney still had a small core of human decency left in his soul, and naturally didn't want even illegal immigrants dying on the streets of Boston for lack of an antibiotic. But he's not allowed to admit that anymore, so instead we get some nonsense about Romney being shocked, shocked at how the regs turned out. That's life in the modern Republican Party for you.
It's funny. Every once in a while I actually feel a little sorry for Romney for being forced to compete in this environment. What's a moderate technocrat to do, after all? But then I remember how enthusiastically he used this exact same xenophobic dynamic to bash Perry repeatedly over the in-state tuition issue, and suddenly I don't feel sorry for him even a little bit anymore. Lie down with dogs and you pick up some fleas.