Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics
  2. /
  3. The Buzz

PolitiFact Florida: Fact-checking Joe Gruters on health care for undocumented immigrants

The chair of the Republican Party of Florida made the claim at a Tampa Bay Times event.
Republican Party of Florida chairman Joe Gruters, speaks during the Tampa Bay Times Florida 2020 a candid conversation forum Wednesday in St. Petersburg. [CHRIS URSO  |  Times]
Republican Party of Florida chairman Joe Gruters, speaks during the Tampa Bay Times Florida 2020 a candid conversation forum Wednesday in St. Petersburg. [CHRIS URSO | Times]
Published Nov. 8, 2019

The leaders of Florida’s two major political parties squared off less than a year before Election Day, throwing partisan jabs over health care and immigration.

Florida Democratic Party chairwoman Terrie Rizzo called out Republican efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act established under former President Barack Obama. Republican Party of Florida chairman Joe Gruters said it is Democrats with a health care problem.

Gruters, a state senator from Sarasota, referenced the first presidential primary debate in June, in which moderators asked the crowded field to raise their hands if they supported certain positions.

RELATED: Florida’s top Republican, top Democrat agree on one thing: 2020 hinges on the Sunshine State

"All the Democrats on the entire stage — every Democratic candidate said they want to give free health care to illegals," Gruters said during a Tampa Bay Times forum Nov. 6. "That’s them saying, that’s what they said in the debate. It wasn’t me saying it. They raised their hands — every single one of them — free health care for illegals."

In the middle of his reply, Rizzo said: "Fact-check it!"

It wasn’t the first time PolitiFact heard this claim. President Donald Trump used a similar attack in a July ad for his re-election campaign, and it rates Mostly False. Gruters’ statement is not more accurate, and here’s why.

What happened with the Democrats in June

At the first Democratic presidential debate in Miami in June, NBC debate moderator and Today show cohost Savannah Guthrie asked a group of candidates to “raise your hand if your government plan would provide coverage for undocumented immigrants.”

All candidates on stage raised their hands. They weren’t all the candidates, because the first presidential debate was split into two nights.

On the stage were author Marianne Williamson, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, and Rep. Eric Swalwell of California. (Hickenlooper, Gillibrand and Swalwell have dropped out.)

The candidates were not asked if that coverage would be free. Guthrie then asked two candidates — Buttigieg and Biden — to comment. Neither one said they would give "free" health care to undocumented immigrants.

Buttigieg spoke about people buying into a system and said that undocumented immigrants pay certain taxes.

"This is not about a handout," Buttigieg said. "This is an insurance program."

Biden agreed, and spoke about the contributions by undocumented immigrants, including paying taxes.

So the debate Gruters mentioned doesn’t actually support what Gruters claimed. But there is some question about how Medicare for All, a proposal some of the Democratic candidates support, would treat health care costs for undocumented immigrants.

Sanders’ version is a single, national health insurance program that would cover everyone who lives in the United States. There would be no out-of-pocket costs to individuals — no deductibles, no copays or coinsurance — but anyone with a job or self-employed would pay into the system through taxes. In that sense, coverage would not be free for anyone who works. (Some immigrants in the country illegally pay income taxes.)

Sanders’ 2019 Medicare for All bill states that all residents — without specifying legal residents — are entitled to the benefits and that the health and human services secretary shall set criteria to determine residency.

Sanders’ immigration plan says Medicare for All will "provide comprehensive care to everyone in America, regardless of immigration status." It also calls for employers to follow labor laws when employing undocumented immigrants, which suggests that they would pay the payroll tax.

However, some of the other Democrats on the debate stage specifically responded to a New York Times questionnaire with replies that showed the coverage would not be free.

Buttigieg, Bennet and Yang said undocumented immigrants would have the option to buy coverage through a public option, the insurance marketplace, or Medicare for All, respectively.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, one of the top contenders and another advocate for Medicare for All, was not on the debate stage that night. (She went the night before.)

Her detailed financial plan for Medicare for All includes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, which would increase federal revenue for Medicare for All as new people come into the system and pay taxes.

When PolitiFact told Gruters what we found — mainly that the debate question did not include the condition that it would be free coverage — he replied: “Illegal immigrants have little more than what they are carrying with them when they cross the border, so as a result the only logical conclusion is that it would be free.”

Our ruling

Gruters said, "All the Democrats on the entire stage — every Democratic candidate said they want to give free health care to illegals."

The question from the debate moderator did not specify if coverage for undocumented immigrants would be free. Two candidates who elaborated on their responses — Biden and Buttigieg — said these immigrants would be eligible to buy into their system.

We rate this statement Mostly False.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, left, and Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody were appointed to the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice by Attorney General Bob Barr. [Tampa Bay Times]
    Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody will also join a commission that will “explore modern issues affecting law enforcement," according to the Department of Justice.
  2. Tiffany Carr — shown during a 2004 visit to a Hollywood nail salon, where she spoke on domestic violence — did not respond this past week to requests from the Miami Herald to address her $761,560 annual salary. She is head of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence. [MIAMI HERALD  |  [Bob Eighmie Miami Herald file photo]]
    A bill removes a statute ensuring a state contract with the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence following a flap over how much its former CEO was paid.
  3. State Rep. Wyman Duggan, a Jacksonville Republican, presents his bill to create a "do not hire" list for any school employee who has been terminated, or resigned in lieu of termination, from employment as a result of sexual misconduct with a student. [The Florida Channel]
    The measure would apply to district, charter and private schools.
  4. A green iguana strolls around Eco Golf Club in Hollywood, Florida on Oct. 28. [MATIAS J. OCNER  |  Miami Herald]
    The Senate Environment and Natural Resources committee voted 4-0 on a bill that would prohibit green iguanas from being kept as pets or sold in pet shops.
  5. Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley, middle, looks over an absentee ballot.
    A nonprofit is mailing millions of voter registration forms to Floridians this month in hopes of getting people on voter rolls in time for the 2020 election. Pasco’s supervisor of elections issued an...
  6. Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland. [STEVE CANNON  |  Special to the Times]
    Sen. Kelli Stargel said lawmakers deserved the same level of privacy as police officers and judges, but offered no proof why such an extraordinary exemption in public records was necessary.
  7. In this Feb. 14, 2018, file photo, students hold their hands in the air as they are evacuated by police from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., after a shooter opened fire on the campus. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, File) [MIKE STOCKER  |  AP]
    But this year’s bill may provoke fewer fireworks than the bitter debates seen in the past two sessions.
  8. The four candidates for Clearwater mayor in 2020. Clockwise from the top left: Frank Hibbard, Morton Myers, Bill Jonson and Elizabeth "Sea Turtle" Drayer. [[Frank Hibbard (Courtesy of Hibbard); Morton Myers [Douglas R. Clifford | Times]; Bill Jonson [Douglas R. Clifford | Times]; Elizabeth "Sea Turtle" Drayer; (Courtesy of Drayer)]
    We might learn a great deal about a key election in Tampa Bay.
  9. iPhone x Pano of fans outside of Amalie Arena in Tampa for game one of the Eastern Conference NHL Playoffs of the Tampa Bay Lightning and the New Jersey Devils. LUIS SANTANA   |   Times [LUIS SANTANA  |  TIMES]
    Rep. Bryan Avila, R-Miami Springs, wants to repeal sales tax money earmarked for stadiums such as Amalie Arena and Raymond James Stadium and the Trop.
  10. Rep. Anthony Sabatini presents his bill to create school board term limits to the Florida House PreK-12 Innovation subcommittee on Jan. 21, 2020. [The Florida Channel]
    The idea would require a three-fifths vote in each chamber before it could appear on the ballot.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement