Senate Panel Approves Immigration Bill With Provider Provision
On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13-5 to approve a bipartisan immigration bill (S 744) with a provision that would make it easier for U.S.-trained foreign physicians, nurses and other health care professionals to work in the U.S., Modern Healthcare reports.
The bill would:
Permanently reauthorize a federal waiver program allowing state health agencies to recommend up to 30 exemptions annually in order to keep physicians on a J-1 visa from having to return to their home country after two years;
- Increase the number of such waivers that would be available to states;
- Provide three additional waivers to academic medical centers;
- Increase the annual cap on visas for foreign workers in specialty occupations from 65,000 to 110,000; and
- Raise the number of employment-based green cards, which would benefit nurses and allied health workers -- such as physical therapists and occupational therapists.
Other Health Care-Related Provision
In addition, S 744 would allow individuals in the following groups to purchase health coverage through the Affordable Care Act's insurance exchanges, according to a summary of the bill prepared by the National Immigration Law Center:
- Individuals with provisional immigrant status;
- Individuals with blue-card status; and
- Individuals with V non-immigrant visa status.
However, individuals in the 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, according to Modern Healthcare.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) said he plans to schedule a floor debate on the bill -- by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) -- in June, when senators reconvene following a weeklong Memorial Day recess (Zigmond, Modern Healthcare, 5/22).
House Republican Warns of ACA Effect on Immigration Legislation
Meanwhile on Wednesday, Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) -- who is involved in ongoing private negotiations on immigration legislation in the House -- warned that ACA-related provisions could ultimately block final passage of immigration legislation in Congress, Politico reports.
Some lawmakers during the talks have discussed the idea of prohibiting undocumented immigrants from gaining access to publicly subsidized care, such as health coverage they might require if they need treatment at an emergency department, according to Politico.
The plan has made House Democratic leaders uneasy, with some noting that such individuals could be deported if they are unable to afford certain health care expenses, Politico reports.Labrador said, "I think [Democrats] just need to accept that the American people are not going to be responsible for the health care costs of the people that are here illegally" (Kim, Politico, 5/22). 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.