House Lawmakers Look To Resolve Differences on Immigrant Coverage
House lawmakers are struggling to resolve differing stances on health care coverage for immigrants as part of a larger immigration bill, the Los Angeles Times' "Politics Now" reports (Mascaro, "Politics Now," Los Angeles Times, 5/23).
Earlier this week, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill (S 744) that would allow certain groups of immigrants to purchase health coverage through the Affordable Care Act's insurance exchanges.
A summary prepared by the National Immigration Law Center indicated the bill would benefit:
- Individuals with provisional immigrant status;
- Individuals with blue-card status; and
- Individuals with V non-immigrant visa status.
However, individuals in those groups have provisional statuses, meaning that they would not be eligible to receive the law's premium tax credits or cost-sharing reductions, potentially leaving many of them uninsured (California Healthline, 5/23).
According to "Politics Now," House lawmakers disagree on whether immigrants should be deported if they fail to obtain health insurance or do not pay their health care bills. House GOP negotiators have embraced the deportation clause, while Democrats have argued that it is too harsh. Advocates also note that the risk of deportation could prevent immigrants from obtaining vaccinations or treatment for transmissible diseases.
Meanwhile, federal law guarantees that anyone, regardless of immigration status, can obtain emergency care at hospitals, and discussions indicate that the policy would not change under the emerging House proposal. Negotiators on both sides have agreed that the nearly 11 million individuals without proper immigration documents who are on the path toward legal status will be blocked from accessing certain key health care benefits under the ACA, "Politics Now" reports.
Like the Senate bill, the House is considering a proposal that would bar such individuals from receiving tax subsidies under the ACA. However, both the Senate and House measures are expected to permit such individuals to use their own money to purchase coverage through the ACA's insurance exchanges.
House Immigration Overhaul Bill Still on Track, Negotiators Say
The bipartisan group of House lawmakers working on that chamberâs plan missed a self-imposed deadline on Thursday to reach a deal on the legislation, "Politics Now" reports. However, group members signaled Thursday that the bill still is on track for introduction in June ("Politics Now," Los Angeles Times, 5/23). Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said, "I believe that we can reach language that will satisfy both sides of the aisle." (Berman, The Hill, 5/23).
Boehner Stands Firm Against Senate Bill
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and four other House Republican leaders in a joint statement also promised that the House "will not simply take up and accept the bill that is emerging in the Senate if it passes," adding, "Rather, through regular order, the House will work its will and produce its own legislation" (Peterson, Wall Street Journal, 5/23).
Meanwhile, House Democrats face uncertainty about whether "to put their weight behind the Senate bill, which hews more to their political priorities, or push the House group to finish its bipartisan proposal that is certain to be more conservative than the Senate effort," according to "Politics Now."
Pelosi Promises No ACA Coverage for Undocumented Immigrants
In related news, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday disputed claims by some Republicans in recent days that Democrats favor providing undocumented immigrants with taxpayer-subsidized health care benefits, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.
Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill, Pelosi said taxpayers will not be responsible for the health care of undocumented immigrants, noting that such individuals would have "no access to subsidies ... no access to Medicaid" under any immigration overhaul measure. "That has always been the Democratic position," she added (Lillis/Berman, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 5/23). However, she did not mention Medicare or CHIP, according to Modern Healthcare (Zigmond, Modern Healthcare, 5/23).
Pelosi also noted that she supports efforts in the House to draft an immigration bill, adding, "It is my view that it would be very helpful to have a bipartisanly supported House bill to go to the table [and] to reconcile our differences" with the Senate ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 5/23).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.