REP. GUTIÉRREZ’ NEW BILL EXPANDS ACCESS TO OBAMACARE TO UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS

Sep 30, 2015 Issues: Health Care, Immigration

Rep. Gutiérrez’ New Bill expands Access to Obamacare to Undocumented Immigrants

Congressman delivers floor speech and introduces “Exchange Inclusion for a Healthy America Act of 2015”

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL) introduced the Exchange Inclusion for a Healthy America Act of 2015 and spoke on the House floor about his new legislation during the 10 am hour (ET).

The bill subjects everyone to the individual mandate to carry insurance and lifts restrictions in the Affordable Care Act – also known as Obamacare – that require individuals to be “lawfully present” in order to buy into the health care insurance exchanges.  So those not covered by insurance through their employer, regardless of immigration status, would have to purchase health insurance through the exchanges provided they establish state residency and file taxes (which most immigrants already do).  They would also have access to subsidies, if they qualify. 

“The goal is to make integration and inclusion real for millions of families that are locked out under current law,” the Congressman said in his floor speech.  “As it stands right now, undocumented immigrants are not subject to the individual mandate and cannot buy into health insurance exchanges even if they use their own money.  My legislation will change that.  It says that we stand for inclusion.”

He continued: “As a nation, we all benefit when we spread the risk, require younger, healthier workers to join our exchanges with the rest of us, reduce the costs of compensating hospitals for caring for the uninsured, and decrease the number of uninsured who live and work here.”

Recalling the Pope’s message to Congress just last week – about adhering to the Golden Rule – the Congressman said, “Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you means moving forward with no restrictions on which brother and sister and neighbor we think of as ‘eligible’ or ‘deserving.’”

A summary of the Exchange Inclusion for a Healthy America Act of 2015 is pasted below, as are the remarks from the Congressman’s floor speech (as prepared for delivery).

A video of the Congressman’s speech is here: https://youtu.be/8pOB62zpGLM

Rep. Gutiérrez represents the Fourth District of Illinois, is a Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, is a Member of the Judiciary Committee and the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, and is the Co-Chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. 

Text of Floor Speech:

Exchange Inclusion for a Healthy America Act of 2015

The Pope visited America and he inspired a lot of people, even in cynical Washington, DC.

For one, he inspired Speaker Boehner to wake up the next morning and announce his resignation.  As I said last week, it must be hard for a decent man like Speaker Boehner to be the head of the New Know-Nothing Party of increasingly extreme measures to cut health care for women and to round up and deport millions of undocumented immigrants.

It remains to be seen how Republicans in the House will conduct themselves without adult supervision, but the Speaker is going out on a high note.

Having the Pope speak to America from the floor of the House of Representatives was a crowning achievement for the Speaker.

But now that his job is no longer on the line, I hope he will see immigration reform as the jewel in that crown and act before he steps down.

But we all know that is unlikely. 

The current hysteria on the campaign trail makes action by these Republicans or any Republicans unlikely

Even though I still believe we have the votes – like we did for the last several years – to pass immigration reform in the House I don’t think the Speaker, even as a lame duck, will allow a vote.

But the Pope’s visit certainly inspired me to think about the moral example he sets.

Look, the Holy Father simply reminded Members of Congress about the Golden Rule – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” – and he could not even complete his sentence and he got a standing ovation.

If we had a daily reminder of the Golden Rule, we could cut through a lot of the Bull in Congress and have a better country and a better world.

And it is the Golden Rule that I am here to discuss.

Treat your brother and your sister and your neighbor with compassion as you would like to be treated yourself. 

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.

That is why I am introducing the Exchange Inclusion for a Healthy America Act of 2015, a bill to give people complete access to the Affordable Care Act regardless of their immigration status.

The Exchange Inclusion for a Healthy America Act or EIHA will extend health care insurance access to the millions of our neighbors and family members who live here, work here, raise families here, and will probably live here for the rest of their lives, but who lack legal immigration status.

It gives them access to the health care exchanges in Obamacare under the ordinary rules of residency in the states in which they live and makes them eligible for subsidies if and when they file taxes – just like the rest of us. 

It also subjects them to the individual mandate that requires individuals to have health insurance

The goal is to make integration and inclusion real for millions of families that are locked out under current law.

Now, if I remember correctly, the President was standing right over there in 2009 talking about how his health care reform proposal would exclude undocumented immigrants and one of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle interrupted him by shouting “You lie” to the President of the United States of America, who, we should all note, was reelected comfortably in 2012.

I do not expect that Member of Congress to join me as a co-sponsor, but in fact as we all know, he was dead wrong about the Affordable Care Act.

In addition to “death panels” and a number of other fictions, the Republicans were wrong about undocumented immigrants being included in Obamacare. 

I am and have always been an advocate for the single payer approach to universal health coverage and I fought to include all of the people who live in this country in the Affordable Care Act, but they were written out.

As it stands right now, undocumented immigrants are not subject to the individual mandate and cannot buy into health insurance exchanges even if they use their own money.

My legislation will change that. 

It says that we stand for inclusion.

It says that we understand the principle that if you are here, if you are working and caring for your family and contributing to society, you should be healthy.

Not only that, but your health and your protection from diseases, injuries and preventable illnesses impacts my health care and the health care of my family.

As a nation, we all benefit when we spread the risk, invite younger, healthier workers to join our exchanges, reduce the costs of compensating hospitals for caring for the uninsured and reducing the number of uninsured who live and work here.

Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you means moving forward with no restrictions on which brother and sister and neighbor we think of as “eligible” or “deserving” or is in fact considered “my” neighbor or “my” sister or “my” brother.

My Party and the vast majority of my country understands that getting immigrants on the books and into the system and integrating today’s immigrants into American society is the goal, just as we have done with every group of migrants throughout our history.

And my legislation, the Exchange Inclusion for a Healthy America Act is step in that direction.

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BILL SUMMARY

Exchange Inclusion for a Healthy America Act of 2015

The Goal:

Allow more individuals and families who are living and working in the United States to purchase health care in the exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) so that they (1) have greater access to health care and preventative services and (2) further strengthen insurance markets, our economy, and the nation as a whole.

What the Bill Does

(1)   Provide access to the ACA, the marketplace and subsidies to undocumented immigrants, including those with DACA/DAPA/Deferred Action, so long as they can provide proof of residency and tax-filings;

(2)   Subject everyone to the individual mandate;

(3)   Effective date is Dec. 31, 2015, during the next open enrollment period (2016).

Key points about access to the exchange:

·      This bill would provide subsidies to undocumented immigrants, and would allow undocumented immigrants to purchase insurance plans through the marketplace with subsidies.

·      This bill would increase the number of individuals who sign up for coverage, which is good for public health, and helps maintain a healthy workforce and a strong U.S. economy.

·      This bill would increase the number of individuals covered, strengthening insurance risk pools. And since these individuals tend to be younger and healthier, their inclusion would help keep premiums lower for everyone.

Reality check:

·      Undocumented immigrants are not neatly segregated away from the mainstream of American families the way some hope. Rather, most have lived here a long time and live in families that include citizens and other immigrants of various types of legal status. So we should account for the real nature of their integration into American society and include as many as possible in our health system.

·      What President Obama and most Americans understand is that getting immigrants into the system and onto the books and participating and fully integrating into American society is a much more desirable and realistic goal than pipedreams about mass deportation or “self-deportation.”

·      Immigrants who are undocumented today will inevitably be a part of our future workforce and tax base (especially once Congress passes sensible immigration reform), therefore it is in the interest of all of us to have as healthy a future workforce and strong tax base as possible.

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