The Republicans vs. Ronald Wilson Reagan.
If the Republicans absolutely hate the idea of illegal immigrants receiving medical treatment than they only have their hero, Ronald Wilson Reagan, to thank. It was President Ronald W. Reagan who signed the COBRA legislation in 1986 that included the emergency room treatment provision:
Illegal immigrants are already eligible for emergency care through the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, signed by President Reagan in 1986. This emergency care is often paid for by Emergency Medicaid, private insurance if the patients have it, out-of-pocket, or it's written off as bad debt or charity care by the hospital.
This is how the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act is described:
Any patient who "comes to the emergency department" requesting "examination or treatment for a medical condition" must be provided with "an appropriate medical screening examination" to determine if he is suffering from an "emergency medical condition". If he is, then the hospital is obligated to either provide him with treatment until he is stable or to transfer him to another hospital in conformance with the statute's directives.
Of course Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) is so outraged by the idea of illegal immigrants receiving medical treatment that he called President Obama a liar. But the fact is that South Carolina is already treating illegal immigrants at a hefty price:
Uninsured illegal immigrants often turn to emergency rooms for care. In 2006, S.C. hospitals treated 27,000 uninsured, non-citizens. Those visits resulted in $117 million in total charges, including $59 million in emergency room charges, according to the Hospital Association (the S.C. Hospital Association).
So not only was Joe Wilson wrong about the facts behind his outrage, he was also actually venting his rage against the great Ronald Reagan.