The Obama administration is pushing for a new government-regulated insurance market system that would allow only eligible U.S. citizens to purchase health insurance at subsidized rates. Resident aliens on the other hand, whether legal or illegal, will not be entitled to government subsidies.
The proposed insurance “exchange” scheme will supposedly help reduce the benefits that illegal immigrants might enjoy from a revamped health care system. The President reiterated in his speech to Congress on Wednesday that his health care plan will not provide insurance benefits to illegal immigrants. The topic is particularly sensitive for many elected officials who are still yet to agree on the policies for comprehensive health care benefits to bona fide American citizens.
Part of the President’s health care strategy seeks to provide health insurance for all U.S. citizens, especially for those with limited incomes, by subsidizing the cost of coverage. One way for the government to be able to afford this undertaking is to reduce its current expenditures on health care. The federal government has been spending about $250 million a year on emergency hospital care for illegal immigrants alone. Thus, one way to reduce health-related government spending is to exclude non-U.S. citizens from availing of government aid when they purchase insurance, a benefit to which immigrants are currently entitled.
Under the proposed plan, illegal immigrants will still be entitled to free emergency medical care and they could still voluntarily acquire health insurance by paying for their coverage out of their own pockets.
The administration is relying on lawmakers to come up with the detailed operational guidelines on the proposed insurance market system.
The Energy and Commerce Committee of the House of Representatives has proposed a bill that will require all U.S. citizens as well as some legal immigrants to purchase health insurance. Illegal immigrants, however, are not subject to this requirement. But also, according to this draft legislation, both legal and illegal immigrants cannot avail of government-sponsored discounts on their insurance premiums.
Other House committees are also formulating their own versions of this bill.
The Senate Finance Committee, meanwhile, is working on a counterpart health-care bill with a position similar to that of the House Energy and Commerce Committee draft bill.
Reid Cherlin, an administration spokesman, said that the new insurance market system will require
prospective policyholders to provide proof of citizenship before they can buy an insurance plan. If the buyer is a U.S. citizen, then he or she may be eligible for the the government subsidies. The proposed insurance “exchange” could put to use current eligibility verification systems, such as the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements program, to screen those who may or who may not avail of the government subsidies.
Mr. Cherlin added that the President has remained consistent on his views regarding illegal immigrants. The proposed insurance “exchange” may, however, prove unacceptable to proponents of immigrant rights.