Hispanic Democrats want health care fix

Hispanic Democrats want health care fix
By CARRIE BUDOFF BROWN | 7/19/10 4:19 AM EDT Text Size- + reset

A group of Democratic lawmakers wants to use the immigration reform debate to fix one of the most hotly contested aspects of the health care law — provisions that bar immigrants from using new government programs to get coverage.

The move by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus would add a contentious new element to an already monumental task — passing a bill that puts 11 million illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship.

But the lawmakers say they’re merely following through on a pledge they made when the health care overhaul passed in March, and they expect the White House and Democratic leadership to do the same.

Some members of the caucus almost withheld their votes for health reform over what they saw as punitive, anti-immigrant measures in the bill, which bans illegal immigrants from using newly created exchanges to buy insurance, even with their own money, and maintains a five-year waiting period for legal residents to enroll in Medicaid.

They signed on only after receiving assurances that their concerns would be rectified as part of the immigration reform battle, according to lawmakers, advocates and Hill aides.

“The expectation was that everybody knew it was unfair and that a new immigration bill would correct that,” Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) told POLITICO.

Asked at what level he received such signals, Grijalva said: “High enough to feel secure about it.”

“There was a widespread sense in the community that immigrants were thrown under the bus in health care reform, and there was a sense that there would be a moral obligation to undo some of the damage,” said Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change, an immigrant rights advocacy group.

But mixing two of the most controversial pieces of legislation backed by President Barack Obama — health care and immigration — could complicate immigration reform’s already tenuous chances, raising difficult political and policy questions about when this group of future citizens can receive benefits.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories...#ixzz0uEalQwDG