Health Care Thorny Issue In Immigration Debate
|ERICA WERNER, Associated Press|
The question is how much access to taxpayer-subsidized care should be granted to immigrants who were here illegally and are embarking on a path to citizenship. Answering it has pulled the noxious politics around President
<p> That's threatening fragile alliances between Republicans and Democrats, already causing one key House member, GOP Rep.
"What may be the story at the end of this session is that Obamacare killed immigration reform," Labrador said before a last-gasp effort failed this week to resolve the health care dispute in a way he could accept. Now the seven other members of the House group are moving forward without Labrador, who said their proposal doesn't go far enough to ensure that immigrants must pay for all their own health care costs without leaving taxpayers on the hook for any of it.
Health care and immigrants was a hot-button issue even before Republican Rep.
"We cannot be providing Obamacare subsidies to people who have been violating our immigration laws," said Sen.
The approach is opposed by immigrant advocates who pushed for provisional legal immigrants to be allowed government-subsidized care, arguing that it makes sense for public health and the economy. But the idea was opposed by Republicans, and even Democratic authors of the
"We definitely were pushing from the start, and basically we tried to remind the Democrats that this was sort of an unfulfilled promise from the Affordable Care Act, when undocumented immigrants were excluded," said
As the House immigration group moves forward trying to unveil a bill, it may include placeholder language on health coverage similar to what's in the
So where does that leave newly legalized immigrants in provisional status with no access to publicly funded care?
In the aftermath of Wilson's outburst, the
Although current law bars immigrants here illegally from
Beyond that, a certain number of immigrants would get employer-sponsored care. Right now, some 30 percent of immigrants here illegally are covered that way, according to the
But the issues are far from settled. Along with border security and other matters, health coverage is almost certain to be the subject of disputes on the
As debate on the legislation opened Friday, Senate Majority Leader
A leading opponent, Sen.
"It will definitely give amnesty today, it will definitely give immediate legal status to some 11 million people today," Sessions said. But the promise of enforcement "is not fulfilled."
Friday was given over to debate, and the first votes, on moving the bill forward, will come Tuesday. Reid said he wants to finish the legislation by
A health care amendment of particular concern to advocates is expected to be offered by Sen.
Senators are confronting another complication created by their attempt to block immigrants from getting Obamacare subsidies in the exchanges. Employers with 50 or more workers face penalties if they don't offer adequate health coverage to their workers, but some of those penalties depend on how many workers end up shopping in the exchanges with federal subsidies.
Since provisional immigrants don't have the right to get federal subsidies, it appears employers in some cases could face no penalty for failing to insure them, potentially giving employers an incentive to hire newly legalized immigrants over American citizens.
It's a problem senators say they want to work out on the
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