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After Apology, Questions Over Coverage For Illegal Immigrants

With Rep. Joe Wilson's (R-S.C.) apology accepted at the White House, questions at today's briefing turned to the basis of his quarrel with the president: whether illegal immigrants would benefit from health care through reforms, if passed.

Press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about a figure President Obama used: that 30 million American citizens are uninsured. The U.S. Census says that 46 million are currently uninsured.

"The proposal that the president outlined covers American citizens," Gibbs said. "His plan would not cover illegal immigrants. If you subtract a rough estimate from that 46.3 million, you get a number that's somewhat unknown, but in the 30s that represents American citizens, as the president pointed out."

That would still leave tens of millions of Americans uninsured, presumably driving up medical costs if they still sought care from hospitals. Gibbs was also asked about the possibility an illegal immigrant would seek to purchase insurance through the proposed exchange.

"I can't speak for somebody that's here illegally, but I would think it would be somewhat of a bad course of events if you're here illegally to alert people that you are here illegally and sign up for a government program," Gibbs said.

As for Wilson's outburst, Gibbs said the president took him at his word that he was sorry. For his part, President Obama seemed ready to move on.

"I'm a big believer that we all make mistakes. He apologized quickly and without equivocation, and I'm appreciative of that," he said after a meeting of his Cabinet. "I do think that, as I said last night, we have to get to the point where we can have a conversation about big, important issues that matter to the American people without vitriol, without name-calling, without the assumption of the worst in other people's motives."

The president also said that the media "always be helpful by not giving all the attention to the loudest or shrillest voices." Though some corners of the White House are probably enjoying the coverage Wison's remark is still getting.