A congressman from Illinois is pushing to extend the benefits of the Affordable Care Act to undocumented workers.
In a speech given on the House floor yesterday, Rep. Luis Gutierrez made the case for allowing the nation’s millions of working but undocumented immigrants take advantage of healthcare reform, citing both moral and economic benefits of the proposal.
“As a nation, we all benefit when we spread the risk, require younger, healthier workers to join our exchanges with the rest of us, reduce the costs of compensating hospitals for caring for the uninsured, and decrease the number of uninsured who live and work here,” Gutierrez said.
Currently, the ACA bars undocumented immigrants from receiving health insurance through the state or federal health insurance exchanges. Gutierrez’s proposal would not only allow, but require them to do so.
With the passage of the Exchange Inclusion for a Healthy America Act of 2015, Gutierrez hopes to decrease the number of uninsured people in the country – according to a 2013 study from UCLA, UC-Berkeley and the Mexican government, 13% of those without insurance are Mexican immigrants.
Republican lawmakers are not viewing the proposal favorably, however. Party leaders expressed strong concern at the passage of the ACA that undocumented workers would receive coverage under the law, and the Obama administration went to great lengths to ensure unauthorized immigrants were not included in the bill.
Gutierrez acknowledged the low likelihood of passage for the proposed legislation.
“The current hysteria on the campaign trail makes action by these Republicans or any Republicans unlikely,” he said. “Even though I still believe we have the votes – like we did for the last several years – to pass immigration reform in the House I don’t think the Speaker, even as a lame duck, will allow a vote.”
Still, Gutierrez is pressing his case and hoping to win over colleagues while sounding a moral note.
“Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you means moving forward with no restrictions on which brother and sister and neighbor we think of as ‘eligible’ or deserving,” he said.