The Daily Signal

House Democrats Propose Illegal Immigrants Gain Access to Obamacare

Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, D-Ill., introduced legislation last week that would allow illegal immigrants health care coverage under Obamacare. (Photo: Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Newscom)

The pope’s reminder of the Golden Rule during his visit to Congress inspired a House Democrat to introduce legislation to expand the Affordable Care Act.

Last week Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, D-Ill., introduced new legislation called the Exchange Inclusion for a Healthy America Act of 2015, which would allow illegal immigrants health care coverage under Obamacare.

“Treat your brother and your sister and your neighbor with compassion as you would like to be treated yourself,” Gutiérrez stated on the House floor. “And in the case of health care and access to health insurance, it is not simply out of a sense of moral altruism, although that is a part of it. Rather, it is out of the reality that treating our brothers and sisters and neighbors as we want to be treated when it comes to health care and access to care and access to health insurance is in our own self-interest, as well.”

“The goal is to cover everyone in this country, regardless of immigration status, provided they establish state residency and file taxes (which most immigrants already do),” states the congressman’s Facebook page. “We have to make sure it’s accessible to everyone living here.”

The Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, “explicitly prohibits the payment of exchange tax credits and cost sharing subsidies to illegal immigrants,” says Ed Haislmaier, a senior research fellow in health policy studies at The Heritage Foundation.

“With respect to legal immigrants, because prior law bars them from receiving Medicaid for five years following the grant of legal status,” Haislmaier said, “the [Affordable Care Act] allows [legal immigrants] to claim the exchange tax credits and cost sharing subsidies, even if they have incomes below the threshold at which those subsidies are not available to citizens.”

Federal poverty level guidelines show that a person making 100 percent of the federal poverty level may qualify to receive tax credits and other assistance under Obamacare.  

The bill proposed by Gutiérrez and co-sponsor Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., would amend Obamacare to permit illegal immigrants to purchase health insurance through Obamacare exchanges (also termed health insurance marketplaces) and receive coverage subsidies.

The bill subjects everyone to an individual mandate to be on health care insurance.

“We should account for the real nature of [undocumented immigrant’s] integration into American society and include as many as possible in our health system,” states a press release from the office of Gutiérrez.

“Proposals that allow illegal immigrants access to various welfare and entitlement programs, such as Obamacare, have multiple negative effects,” says Heritage Foundation policy analyst David Inserra. Inserra, an expert in Homeland Security, told The Daily Signal three effects of proposals like the bill introduced by Gutiérrez:

  1. “They harm the U.S. budget and the fiscal health of these programs.”

  2. “Such programs transfer tax dollars from U.S. citizens and legal immigrants to illegal immigrants.”

  3. “Expanding welfare benefits for illegal immigrants is a greater incentive for additional illegal immigration. In sum, the words of famous economist Milton Friedman ring true: ‘It is one thing to have free immigration to jobs, it is another thing to have free immigration to welfare, and you cannot have both.’”

On the day of the bill’s introduction, Sept. 30, the legislation was referred to the Energy and Commerce as well as the Ways and Means Committees in the House.