While Senate negotiators were able to sign off on a proposal for immigration reform, a bipartisan group in the House appears stuck on the issue of health care for newly legalized immigrants.
If immigration reform took one step forward in the Senate this week, it could take a leap backward in the House if bipartisan negotiators cannot, by their self-imposed Thursday deadline, figure out how newly legalized immigrants can have access to affordable health care under President Obama’s signature legislation.
The group, which has been working for the better part of four years on immigration reform legislation, could fracture without resolving the health-care issue, an outcome widely acknowledged to be a serious but not fatal setback for immigration reform’s prospects in the GOP-lead House.
While Democratic House negotiators in the eight-member group of immigration reformers signed off on a proposal that would have left the potential 11 million newly legalized immigrants to largely fend for themselves on health care, House Democratic leadership is concerned about the lack of specificity in the “agreement in principle” the group reached last week, according to a leadership aide.
The apparent obstacle to immigration reform has emerged amid repeated Republican efforts in the House to repeal Obamacare.
The aide said Democrats were concerned the agreement could be construed to mean that the newly legalized, who while pursuing a decade-long path to citizenship will be ineligible for health insurance subsidies and Medicaid, would be at risk for deportation should they hit medical bills they are unable to repay. Republicans and Democrats largely agree that none of those in the country illegally today should be given access to federal support programs until they have reached permanent legal status.
While saying he was “confident” the group could come to an accord, Rep. Raul Labrador (R) of Idaho says he is concerned that newly legalized immigrants would be too poor to pay for health insurance on the health-care exchanges due to be established later this year.