Today, I signed onto a letter to House leadership urging them to include measures in the legislation that would specifically prevent illegal immigrants from receiving care. Please read the letter below:
Dear Madam Speaker and Republican Leader Boehner:
As discussion on health care reform continues, we urge you to include measures that will prevent illegal immigrants from receiving taxpayer-funded benefits in any health care reform bill considered by the House. While the House bill currently says illegal immigrants cannot get benefits, the statement is meaningless because the bill contains no verification mechanism to ensure that illegal immigrants will not receive benefits.
The non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) recently issued some troubling information on the immigration-related provisions of the current health care bill, H.R. 3200. Specifically, the new CRS Report R40773, Treatment of Noncitizens in H.R. 3200, points out the following:
CRS states that H.R. 3200 does not contain any restrictions on noncitzenswhether legally or illegally present, or in the United States temporarily or permanentlyparticipating in the [taxpayer-subsidized Health Insurance] Exchange.
While section 142(a)(3) of H.R. 3200 states the responsibility of the Health Choices Commissioner to administer the individual affordability credits under subtitle C of title II, including determination of eligibility for such credits, no specific enforcement mechanism is outlined in the bill.
CRS also notes that there could be instances where some family members would meet the definition of an eligible individual for purposes of the credit, while other family members would not. For example, in a family consisting of a U.S. citizen married to an unauthorized alien and a U.S. citizen child, the U.S. citizen spouse and child could meet the criteria for being a credit-eligible individual, while the unauthorized alien spouse would not meet the criteria. H.R. 3200 does not expressly address how such a situation would be treated. Therefore, it appears that the Health Choices Commissioner would be responsible for determining how the credits would be administered in the case of mixed-status families.
Our constituents find these provisions unacceptable. The Pew Hispanic Center estimated that there are almost two million families in the United States where illegal immigrant parents have U.S.-born children, and even more mixed-status families exist. If H.R. 3200 becomes law in its current form, billions in taxpayer funds could go to those who are in our country illegally.
Most of our concerns could be easily addressed by requiring individuals applying for affordability credits to undergo citizenship verification using one of the existing programs used for various social service programs. We urge you to adopt language such as the Heller amendment (offered in the House Ways & Means Committee during the markup of H.R. 3200, July 16, 2009) or the Deal amendment (offered in the House Energy & Commerce Committee markup of H.R. 3200, July 31, 2009) in the final version of any health care reform legislation to close these costly, unnecessarily loopholes.