By Mike Lillis
In a speech tailored to rally Hispanics behind Democrats in November, President Obama this week trumpeted the benefits of the new healthcare law for the Latino population.
"If millions of Latinos end up in the emergency room because they don’t have healthcare, it’s not just a problem for one community, but for our country," Obama said Wednesday at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's annual awards banquet in Washington.
"That’s why we passed health insurance reform for Americans who are sick of being gouged by insurance companies that jack up rates and deny coverage because you have a pre-existing condition. Now millions of Americans with insurance can get free preventive care. Now 9 million Latinos and tens of millions of Americans will be able to afford quality healthcare for the first time."
Left unmentioned was a major criticism of the reform law among Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) members: that it doesn't allow illegal immigrants to buy insurance plans on state-based exchanges even if they pay the full cost out of their own pockets. By contrast, the initial House-passed reform bill, while prohibiting illegal immigrants from receiving any taxpayer subsidies, would have allowed those folks to purchase exchange coverage using their own money.
CHC members had argued that such a prohibition would have the likely consequence of forcing illegal immigrants into emergency rooms rather than encouraging them to get preventive care — an expensive trend for taxpayers, and one that’s been a central rallying point behind the right-wing push to deport all undocumented aliens found living in the country.
Obama on Wednesday acknowledged that his administration has fallen short of its promises to the Hispanic community — particularly in its failure (so far) to pass comprehensive immigration reforms. But if the Republicans take Congress in November, the president argued, Hispanics would fare even worse.
"You have every right to keep the heat on me and the Democrats, and I hope you do," Obama said. "That's how our political process works. But don't forget who is standing with you and who is standing against you. Don't ever believe that this election coming up doesn't matter."