GOP Health Care Bill Excludes All Immigrants From ‘High Risk Pool’

Throughout the health care debate, Republicans have been harping on Democrats for not doing enough to block undocumented immigrants from receiving public benefits. However, it turns out Republicans aren’t just opposed to expanding access to health care for undocumented immigrants, they’re against providing any assistance to all “high risk” seriously ill immigrants, regardless of their immigration status.

The long-awaited health care bill that the Republican House leadership sent to the Congressional Budget Office explicitly states that only US citizens and nationals will be eligible to participate in a State’s “high risk pool.” High risk pools are problematic for a lot of other reasons, but they’re one of the few recourses the GOP is providing individuals who can’t obtain health insurance as a result of a serious illness. States are required to verify citizenship or nationality in a manner consistent with section 1903(x) of the Social Security Act:


Chances are most immigrants wouldn’t be able to afford to buy into pricey high risk pools even if they were eligible. Nonetheless, by explicitly excluding a population that includes legal residents who tend to be healthier than US citizens, use less medical care, and use less expensive care; the GOP is putting its nativist principles before practical common sense. A relatively small number of “high risk” immigrants probably wouldn’t bankrupt the hypothetical pool system, but their participation could upset the GOP’s right-wing base. Republicans already fought in previous years to make sure legal permanent residents don’t qualify for Medicaid until they’ve been in the country for five years and now they’re essentially suggesting that immigrants who get sick and can’t obtain Medicaid or private health insurance should either die broke in the US or go back to their home countries. Many have pointed out that the GOP’s plan is “designed for the healthy while they’re healthy” and for legal immigrants this concept is amplified and downright punitive.

The GOP proposal also prohibits States from including uninsured undocumented immigrants in their calculation of average premiums or number of uninsured.

Sec. 242 and 246 of the Democrats’ health care bill states that only individuals who are not lawfully present in US will be denied health care benefits.