How Immigration Could Kill Health Care Reform

Congressional Hispanic Caucus threatens a boycott

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The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, a collection of 23 Democrats and one independent in the House, are threatening to vote down health care reform over an anti-immigration provision in the Senate bill. The provision bars illegal immigrants form buying health care coverage from the exchanges, which is harsher than the House restriction barring illegal immigrants from receiving federal subsidies on health insurance. That's a step too far, say the Hispanic lawmakers. Could this really kill it? What should Democrats do?

  • Why They're Insisting The Hill's Jared Allen explains, "They claim that while it may be politically popular in some parts of the country to ban illegal immigrants from using their own money to buy coverage, it is not good policy. Illegal immigrants will, one way or another, need medical attention in the United States, and it would be cheaper and more humane to provide them coverage if they pay for it. Otherwise, they will seek treatments in the nation's emergency rooms, effectively increasing medical costs."
  • Shows Need for Immigration Reform rather than just lumping immigration into every other issue, writes Matthew Yglesias. "One important reason to pursue some kind of comprehensive immigration reform is that until we achieve that goal, every other social policy issue is going to get dragged into immigration politics." He scoffs, "it's worth questioning the wisdom of attempting this piecemeal regulation of immigration status by social services providers."
  • Empty Threats Hot Air's Ed Morrissey is skeptical. "They have remained very quiet about this issue until very late in the game. Are they really taking a stand on principle -- or are they putting pressure on Pelosi and Obama to jump into immigration reform now in order to get amnesty and render the entire question moot? I'd bet on the latter, and take this threat with a large grain of salt."
  • Finally, 'Momentum' on Immigration The Huffington Post's Deepak Bhargava is grateful for their raising the issue. "It's always amusing to watch political leaders trying to catch up with the people. The White House is now sprinting to catch up with those demanding practical solutions to our broken immigration system. After more than 14 months and no progress, the grassroots finally lost their patience."
  • Why This Could Kill It Back in August, The Atlantic's Derek Thompson foresaw the conflict between immigration and health care. He said the politics of immigration were just too complex and ripe for demagoguery to mix in with the already-confusing health care fight. So Democrats should preempt it altogether. "In order to snuff out the potential 'death panel'-ization of illegal immigrant care, the Democrats could go an extra step to make it clearer that the bill will include a provision more explicitly designed to weed out illegal immigrant from receiving government-subsidized care." That way, the White House "saves its gunpowder to fight for immigration reform at a later date."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.