Senators turn back ID requirement for immigrant healthcare

Senate Finance Committee Democrats rejected a proposed requirement that immigrants prove their identity with photo identification when signing up for federal healthcare programs.

Finance Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said that current law and the healthcare bill under consideration are too lax and leave the door open to illegal immigrants defrauding the government using false or stolen identities to obtain benefits.

Grassley's amendment was beaten back 10-13 on a party-line vote.

The bill, authored by committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), would require applicants to verify their names, places of birth and Social Security numbers. Under current law, legal immigrants have to wait five years after obtaining citizenship or legal residency before they may sign up for Medicaid. That waiting period would not apply to receiving  tax credits or purchasing insurance through the exchange created by the legislation, however.

But the would not require them to show a photo ID, such as a drivers license. Without that requirement, the bill "remains dearly lacking when it comes to identification," Grassley said. "Frankly, I'm very perplexed as to why anyone would oppose this amendment," he said.

But Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman, who represents the border state of New Mexico, said that the type of fraud Grassley said he wants to prevent is highly uncommon. "The way I see the amendment, it's a solution without a problem," Bingaman said.


[EDITOR'S NOTE: This item has been updated to correct the erroneous statement that current law requires a five-year waiting period for legal immigrants to obtain Children's Health Insurance Program coverage and that the Baucus bill would implement a five-year waiting period for legal immigrants to obtain health insurance tax credits and to purchase coverage through the exchange.]


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