Activists Worry Immigration Arguments Will Hamper Hispanic Health Care

The Washington Post reports that Hispanic lawmakers and groups are "scrambling to develop a strategy to counter what they see as efforts to shortchange immigrants in health bills on Capitol Hill."

While some Hispanic leaders have tried to keep health care reform and illegal immigration separate, concerned they said "that immigration would distract from health care. But other lawmakers and activists have inserted the immigration issue into the middle of the health-care debate, causing a collision between what Hispanic leaders call their two top policy priorities." The insistence of some on considering both in the context of the health reform bills has forced Hispanics' hands. "Many of them believe that a health-care overhaul is vital to their community, which is disproportionately uninsured and suffers from a host of chronic illnesses."

In the House, illegal immigrants would be allowed to buy insurance with their own money -- without government assistance -- in insurance exchanges. In the expected Senate bill, they would not. "In both the Senate and House, all legal immigrants are eligible for government subsidies to buy insurance on the exchange, but immigrants who have been in the country for less than five years would remain barred by existing law from enrolling in Medicaid and Medicare" (Thompson, 11/12).

The New York Times reports that illegal immigration may turn into a rift issue among lawmakers as Congress "seeks to construct a compromise health care bill capable of passing both houses. ... Those who oppose allowing illegal immigrants in the exchange acknowledge that their position is largely symbolic. They doubt that significant numbers of uninsured immigrants would be able to afford the exchange's premiums without subsidies" (Sack, 11/11).

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