Senate bill limits health-care options for immigrants
WASHINGTON (By Mark Osmond, Americas Society) November 28, 2010 ― When it comes to healthcare reform, coverage of undocumented immigrants is a political third-rail.
But under a new Senate bill, legal immigrants could find themselves with fewer options as well.
Before gaining the votes Saturday night to bring the health care debate to the Senate floor, Democrats made significant changes to a House bill, including provisions to limit the availability of new medical plans for both legal and undocumented immigrants .
The revisions could help win the votes of independent Senator Joe Lieberman (CT) and fence-sitting Democrats like Ben Nelson (NE), Blanche Lincoln (AK) and Mary Landrieu (LA), who together essentially have veto power over the bill.
Yet Hispanic lawmakers say provisions in a Senate health care bill to restrict immigrants’ medical coverage options are a lose-lose policy for citizens and immigrants alike.
The Senate measures, which Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) calls “dehumanizing,” will also come at a cost to U.S. taxpayers and insurance policyholders, caution members of the Hispanic Congressional Caucus.
The House bill spelled out that undocumented immigrants would be ineligible for federal medical care subsidies.
Still, all consumers could have purchased coverage in exchanges with their own funds.
The Senate bill bars undocumented immigrants from the insurance pools entirely.
Democrats have worked to assure the public their plan will not funnel tax dollars to undocumented immigrants . Excluding the undocumented from the new healthcare infrastructure may lessen the likelihood of the reform’s derailment.
But the Senate bill goes a step further:
The new measures impose a five-year waiting period before legal non-citizens can access federal subsidies. The House bill made these funds available to some low-income legal residents.
An October 2010 report by the Migration Policy Institute found that, of the roughly 12 million legal permanent residents in the United States, more than a quarter of them are uninsured.
Over a million of those legal immigrants would find themselves left out of Medicaid coverage or insurance subsidies if the five-year period remains on the books.
Hispanic Congressional Caucus members say these provisions may save coverage dollars, but taxpayers and insurance policyholders will face extra emergency care costs.
A 2008 study from the Kaiser Family Foundation found taxpayers fork the bill for 75 percent of total uncompensated care, which equates to $43 billion annually.
Research by Families USA puts the total amount of uncompensated care costs at $73 billion a year.
Their report finds government and charity pays $30 billion of this amount, while the remaining $43 billion is passed on to insurance policyholders.