Republicans (and Some Democrats) Just Quietly Went After Immigrant Healthcare

June 13th 2017

Thor Benson

While much of the nation was paying attention to Attorney General Jeff Sessions' testimony before Congress, Republicans in the House passed a controversial health bill that targets immigrants.

The Verify First Act is aimed at ensuring undocumented immigrants don't receive Obamacare tax credits to pay for health insurance, and the Trump administration has signaled the president will sign it should it reach his desk.

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"Under Obamacare, millions of dollars in advance payments of the premium tax credit may have been paid on behalf of individuals who were likely ineligible beneficiaries, including illegal immigrants," it says on the White House website. "By eliminating the practice of providing advance payments while an applicant’s immigration status is being verified, this bill stems the flow of payments to ineligible individuals under Obamacare and strengthens the ability of the Administration to ensure premium tax credits will be appropriately provided to eligible individuals under the American Health Care Act of 2017 (AHCA)."

Under the bill, the Treasury Department is tasked with verifying everyapplicant's social security number before tax credits are provided, according to The Hill

It is currently illegal for an undocumented immigrant to receive tax credits to help pay for health insurance, but supporters of the bill argue that some undocumented immigrants do receive tax credits temporarily while their immigration statuses are being verified by government agencies. 

Critics argue that undocumented immigrants are not receiving government money for health insurance, and that this bill unfairly targets undocumented immigrants for no legitimate reason. Many Democrats have noted that even many legal immigrants cannot "obtain a Social Security number that can be verified at application time," according to the Associated Press.

“This bill seeks to address a problem that does not exist. Instead, it would harm people by denying or delaying health insurance subsidies to people who need them,” Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) told The Hill. 

Though the bill was approved by mostly Republicans, seven Democrats also voted in favor. Those Democrats are: Rep. Tom O'Halleran (Ariz.), Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), Rep. Stephen Lynch (Mass.), Rep. Collin Peterson (Minn.), Rep. Marcy Kaptur (Ohio), Rep. Peter DeFazio (Ore.) and Rep. Henry Cuellar (Texas).

The Trump administration is still trying to repeal and replace Obamacare, but this is a reminder that, even if they don't succeed, Republicans and a handful of Democratic allies can still whittle away at the coverage that Obamacare provides.