By Stephen Dinan at The Washington Times
Fearful that they’re losing ground on immigration and health care, a group of House Democrats is pushing back and arguing that any health care bill should extend to all legal immigrants and allow illegal immigrants some access.
The Democrats, trying to stiffen their party’s spines on the contentious issue, say it’s unfair to bar illegal immigrants from paying their own way in a government-sponsored exchange. Legal immigrants, they say, regardless of how long they’ve been in the United States, should be able to get government-subsidized health care if they meet the other eligibility requirements.
“Legal permanent residents should be able to purchase their plans, and they should also be eligible for subsidies if they need it. Undocumented, if they can afford it, should be able to buy their own private plans. It keeps them out of the emergency room,” said Rep. Michael M. Honda, California Democrat and chairman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.
Mr. Honda was joined by more than 20 of his colleagues in two letters laying out the demands.
Coverage for immigrants is one of the thorniest issues in the health care debate, and one many Democratic leaders would like to avoid. But immigrant rights groups and the Democrats who sent the letters say they have to take a stand now.
President Obama has said he does not want health care proposals to cover illegal immigrants. The bill drawn up by Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, excludes illegal immigrants from his proposed health care exchange.
Mr. Honda and his allies, though, say illegal immigrants should be allowed to pay for insurance if they can afford it, even if it comes through a government-established exchange.