Burwell makes HHS case for immigration reform

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell made an unexpected plea for immigration reform during a conversation about ObamaCare on Tuesday.

In a webcast with Latina bloggers, Burwell criticized flaws in the country’s immigration system that prevent immigrants who came to the country illegally as children, also known as DREAMers, from getting medical coverage as adults.

“This is an issue that is more than a healthcare issue. It is an immigration issue,” Burwell said in response to a question to Latina activist and blogger Elianne Ramos.

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“This administration feels incredibly strongly that we need to fix that. We need to reform the system and make the changes that we need that will lead to benefits in everything from healthcare to economics,” Burwell said.

The HHS chief has rarely waded into politics during her five months in office. Her stance has separated Burwell from her predecessor, Kathleen SebeliusKathleen SebeliusFighting for assisted living facilities The chaotic fight for ObamaCare California exchange CEO: Insurers ‘throwing ObamaCare under the bus’ MORE, a former governor who frequently engaged in partisan battles.

During the webcast, Burwell also gave an impassioned appeal for Medicaid expansion — a highly contentious political issue that she has largely steered away from during conversations with reporters.  

But Burwell stressed that Medicaid expansion was an “extremely important issue” that she has focused on throughout her tenure.

“We need to do more,” she said about the dozens of states that have declined to expand Medicaid over the last year. “That is a very important part of ensuring that people across the country have coverage.”

Governors in 27 states, nearly all of whom are Democrats, have agreed to expand the program.

Burwell's discussion is one of many public appearances lined up ahead of ObamaCare open enrollment, which begins Saturday. She has pinpointed the country’s growing Hispanic population as a key target for new sign-ups, as it comprises a large portion of the uninsured group.