Congress's most vocal immigration reformer introduced legislation Wednesday that would extend ObamaCare to the millions of people who are in the country illegally.
Rep. Luis Gutiérrez said his bill serves both a moral and economic purpose. Invoking the recent visit of Pope Francis, the Illinois Democrat said expanding the law's health benefits would help the nation’s most vulnerable.
But he also argued that the broad coverage expansion is in the nation's best interest because it would create younger, healthier patient pools, leading to lower insurance costs for those already enrolled in insurance plans.
“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,” Gutiérrez said.
Enacted in 2010, President Obama's healthcare reform law explicitly bars illegal immigrants from enrolling in its health insurance exchanges.
Gutiérrez's proposal would reverse that provision, requiring undocumented workers to buy insurance like anyone else.
"It gives them access to the healthcare exchanges in ObamaCare under the ordinary rules of residency in the states in which they live and makes them eligible for subsidies if and when they file taxes — just like the rest of us," Gutiérrez said.
"The goal is to make integration and inclusion real for millions of families that are locked out under current law."
The proposal has no chance of moving forward in a Congress controlled by Republicans, who have fought to repeal ObamaCare and refused to take up immigration reform bills. But it does draw a sharp contrast between the two parties on those hot-button issues ahead of a high-stakes election season.
Gutiérrez was quick to acknowledge those political dynamics, predicting that even an outgoing Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerLobbyists expect boom times under Trump Last Congress far from ‘do-nothing’ Top aide: Obama worried about impeachment for Syria actions MORE (R-Ohio) won't address immigration, which has sharply divided his conference.
"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."