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House votes to bar undocumented immigrants from healthcare tax credits

© Getty

© Getty

The House passed legislation Tuesday to ensure that immigrants in the country illegally can’t access tax credits for health insurance premiums.

Rep. Lou Barletta’s (R-Pa.) bill, approved in a largely party-line vote of 238-184, would require the Treasury Department to confirm that people applying for the tax credits are verified as U.S. citizens or legal residents by the Commissioner of Social Security or the Secretary of Homeland Security.

A primary way to confirm an applicant’s legal status would be through Social Security numbers.

Federal law already requires an individual to be a citizen or legal resident in order to enroll in a health plan through an exchange and receive premium assistance credits, which must be verified by the Department of Health and Human Services.

If individuals’ citizenship or legal status cannot be immediately verified, they can receive temporary coverage while providing evidence to document their eligibility. But they must be removed from coverage if they cannot ultimately prove their documentation.

Barletta argued that his measure would help strengthen the current system to ensure no one gets the tax credits without the government first ensuring they are being truthful about their legal status.

“This is about the federal government being good stewards of the money our constituents send to Washington. Every federal dollar that goes to someone committing fraud is a dollar that is not going to a person who truly needs and deserves assistance,” Barletta said during House floor debate.

Democrats said the legislation unfairly targeted undocumented immigrants and would ultimately delay coverage for people who might encounter difficulty verifying their information for other reasons.

“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,” said Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.).

Barletta secured a pledge from Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in March that the House would vote on the bill in exchange for his support for the GOP’s legislation to partially repeal and replace the healthcare law.

It’s one of four bills the House is considering this week as part of the GOP’s “third phase” on healthcare reform to issue policy changes outside of the main package that passed the House last month.

Other measures on tap in the House in the coming days would clarify rules for healthcare tax credits used by veterans and COBRA continuation coverage users, as well as establish limits on medical malpractice lawsuits.

Read more: thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/house/337684-house-votes-to-bar-undocumented-immigrants-from-healthcare-tax

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