House Republicans are angling to inject a little bit of the Affordable Care Act into the nation’s immigration reform debate, discussing a bill that would make purchasing health insurance a condition for immigrants waiting to begin the citizenship process.
While the bill has yet to be drafted and Senate Republicans are likely to object, Politico’s David Nather got the inside track on the discussions. He noted that Republicans are moving forward despite the fact that the Affordable Care Act bans undocumented immigrants from buying health insurance through one of the government-subsidized exchanges.
Under the rule being discussed, immigrants would also face the individual mandate in President Barack Obama’s signature health care law. However, because of how the law was shaped by Democrats in 2010, undocumented immigrants are specifically denied access to the exchanges.
At the time, Republicans widely believed this was not the case: Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) notably screamed “You lie!” at President Obama during a State of the Union speech to Congress after the president reiterated Democrats’ position on undocumented immigrants. Republicans also loudly objected to the individual mandate for health insurance — an idea conservatives created — before their latest effort to apply that rule to immigrants.
If Republicans are successful, the rule would force immigrant families to purchase individual policies without the subsidies offered to American families under the Affordable Care Act, then hold onto those policies during the lengthy wait for citizenship or face forfeiting the process.
Of course, this is not sitting well with Democrats. “You can’t ask somebody to buy something they can’t afford, then deny them the ability to get any help,” Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), a key contributor to the Affordable Care Act, told Politico.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) disagreed, saying the whole idea is to prevent immigrants from becoming a “public charge” or burden on taxpayers. “It’s individual responsibility for these folks to earn their ability to stay in the United States, to work in the United States, and to be legalized in the United States, and a big part of that has to be that they’re not a public charge,” he reportedly said.
[Photo: A female doctor with a patient, via Shutterstock.]