Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 7, 2016

Could Obamacare Derail Immigration Overhaul?

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Could Obamacare eligibility stymie comprehensive immigration changes? House negotiators, at least, are working to mitigate this potential hurdle.

The bipartisan House immigration working group is exploring legislative options to prevent the millions of illegal immigrant residents who would be legalized under a comprehensive overhaul from becoming immediately eligible for health care benefits under the Affordable Care Act, sources confirm. The goal is to keep the cost of the overhaul down and prevent the kind of high Congressional Budget Office score that might even scare away Democrats, never mind Republicans.

“We are concerned about the overall cost, and that is a concern on both sides of the aisle,” a GOP aide familiar with the House negotiations told CQ Roll Call on Wednesday.

Proponents of the immigration overhaul, including the Republicans in that group, are fretting that the health care overhaul could throw a wrench into the debate after the House and Senate working groups unveil their respective bills and the committee process gets under way. Republicans in the Senate’s “gang of eight” were scheduled Wednesday afternoon to brief their GOP colleagues on the progress of the immigration legislation they are currently drafting.

Overhaul supporters monitoring the Senate fear that Democrats who might favor immediate Obamacare eligibility for newly legalized immigrants could prevail on New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer and other Democratic negotiators. Proposing to allow former undocumented immigrants such access to the Affordable Care Act could cause a political uproar on the right, costing any bill the GOP support it needs to clear both chambers. And, that’s before President Barack Obama’s opinion on this matter is considered.

In the House, one solution under discussion is a statutory change to the health care overhaul.

One House member privy to the House negotiations, and open to supporting the overhaul, said that immigration overhaul legislation could propose changing the legal requirement for Obamacare eligibility from “in the country legally” to “legal permanent resident.” Under this approach, newly legalized immigrants would not be eligible for federal benefits in general, including those provided under the Affordable Care Act, for a period of seven to 10 years after legalization.

The overhaul might even require newly legalized immigrants to obtain health insurance as a condition of moving beyond probationary status, according to one GOP operative working on behalf of the pro-overhaul forces. Preventing illegal immigrants from accessing Obamacare was a political sticking point during the debate over the president’s landmark health care overhaul bill. The GOP operative said how to address Obamacare in the immigration overhaul legislation is similarly a political “thicket.”

The Republican aide familiar with the House negotiations suggested that a solution that does not involve amending the Affordable Care Act is the preferred route to addressing this problem. And sources said that, at least in the House, the Democrats who are negotiating the immigration compromise are on board with the end goal of preventing immediate health care law eligibility, if for no other reason than they recognize that a high price tag could kill an overhaul.

  • SteveTG

    What a joke. You know that if this mass amnesty passes, Democrats and ethnocentric interest groups would start pushing for amnestied illegal aliens to get ObamaCare ASAP, would call Republicans all sorts of bad names, and the Republicans would of course cave.

    Illegals are even running commercials saying they want to be covered under ObamaCare right now.

    In other words, Joe Wilson would be proved right.

    This is why we must reject the terribly flawed Schumer/Rubio amnesty bill, that looks to be even worse than the “Z-visa” mass amnesty that D.C. elites tried to ram down our throats in 2007.

    Truly secure the border and enforce the laws on the books for at least several years — solely — then after this we can debate what to do next after credibility has been restored to the system.

  • carolerae

    Any excuse to kill it.

  • Dave Francis

    See how the open border organizations and open border nuts twist or doctor words, so illegal aliens are really just immigrants?

    What a bunch of piffle? Any poll can alter the attitude of the voting public, if the wording is craftily engineered? I only trust the Rasmussen Reports, and that is NOT what “THE PEOPLE” said? Incidentally this gang of eight should read the thousands of comments published in the unbiased media and not just the mainstream Liberal press, because they dote over the Socialist and Progressives, who are out to destroy our liberties. From what I have read only about 5 percent insist on a Path to Citizenship and a pretty large majority think they should be deported. One thing’s for sure they are not going to be protected, when it’s time for reelection? Further, no new laws to make illegal aliens comfortable should be passed, until the REAL fences should be built, from one California to Texas, with only breaks for ports of entry. Those only children of a U.S. citizen should be able to claim citizenship. That business who use illegal alien labor, should get a mandatory prison term. That America desperately needs a federal biometric card to stop illegal aliens being hired, instead of the 20 million or more Americans jobless. Sign the pro-sovereignty petition at NumbersUSA, to stop this travesty of our laws. Waiting now for the release of the Heritage Foundation cost survey, as I am sure it’s going to be a eye-opener to its original payout for supporting illegal aliens as $2.6 TRILLION dollars. Read the daily news, reports and blogs, hidden by the Liberal media at American Patrol website.

Sign In

Forgot password?



Receive daily coverage of the people, politics and personality of Capitol Hill.

Subscription | Free Trial

Logging you in. One moment, please...