Baucus Health Plan Takes Harder Line On Illegal Immigration

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As expected, the plan released Wednesday morning by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus takes a harder line on illegal immigration than the Democratic House bill in two ways.

The first big difference comes in the new citizenship verification requirements, which were not specified in the House bill. The eligibility check under the Baucus plan is described this way:

Name, social security number, and date of birth will be verified with Social Security Administration (SSA) data. For individuals claiming to be U.S. citizens, if the claim of citizenship is consistent with SSA data then the claim will be considered substantiated. For individuals who do not claim to be U.S. citizens but claim to be lawfully present in the United States, if the claim of lawful presence is consistent with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) data then the claim will be considered substantiated. Individuals whose claims of citizenship or lawful status cannot be verified with federal data must be allowed substantial opportunity to provide documentation or correct federal data related to their case that supports their contention.

The second big difference is that under the Baucus plan, all people seeking to enter the health care exchanges–which are essentially stores to purchase insurance–must prove their citizenship status. The House bill had barred illegal immigrants from getting subsidies in the exchanges, but not from entering the health exchange with their own money. Here is the Baucus language:

Legal U.S. residents will be able to obtain insurance through the state exchanges. Parents who are in the country illegally will not be able to buy personal insurance coverage through the state exchange but will be able to buy insurance for their U.S. citizen or lawfully present children.

This is consistent with a position announced last week by the White House, in the wake of Obama being accused of lying in a speech to a joint session of Congress. [UPDATE: In the comments below, some have attacked Baucus for ceding to the critique of Joe Wilson. One note in that regard: On Thursday, before Baucus had commented on this, the White House announced that it favored blocking illegal immigrants’ access to the exchange. In other words, it’s not clear that Baucus led this charge.] As I pointed out before, it is unlikely that large numbers of illegal immigrants would seek out this option. In the current system, many illegal immigrants get health insurance through their employers, a practice that would not change under health reform. Many others lack insurance, and depend heavily on emergency room visits, the costs of which are picked up by hospitals, with the help of government Medicaid funding.