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Legalizing illegal immigrants is the solution to Obamacare: Democrat

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Rep. Jared Polis said Friday the key problem with health care right now is that illegal immigrants aren't included in Obamacare, and said part of the solution is to pass a bill granting them citizenship rights.

The House is debating a GOP-written bill that would allow Americans to keep their health plans that have been canceled under Obamacare, but Mr. Polis, a Colorado Democrat, said the chamber should instead be looking at ways to make sure everyone in the country is covered by the Affordable Care Act — including illegal immigrants.

"American citizens are essentially being forced to pay for the health care costs of people who are here illegally every day, until we pass comprehensive immigration reform," he said. "We're wondering why rates are going up. … It's no surprise. When somebody doesn't have insurance, their costs are shifted onto other people that do."

Illegal immigrants are one of the few categories of people in the U.S. who aren't subjected to Obamacare's individual mandate requiring all people to have health insurance coverage. They also aren't eligible for taxpayer subsidies to buy insurance on the health exchanges, nor are they supposed to be getting assistance under Medicaid.

But Mr. Polis said leaving them outside of the health mandate means that they end up using emergency care, but don't end up paying their own bills — leaving the rest of the country to pick up those costs.

He said the solution is to pass House Democrats' bill, which would grant a long-term pathway to citizenship for most illegal immigrants. The legislation is known by its bill number, House Res. 15

"If we can pass HR, 15 people who are here illegally will have to get insurance on their own instead of forcing Americans to pay for their insurance," Mr. Polis said.

His comments come two days after House Speaker John A. Boehner ruled out taking up a broad bill such as the one Democrats wrote. Mr.Boehner said the House will operate on its own timeline and won't even enter into negotiations with Senate Democrats on their broad legalization bill.

The issue of how to handle illegal immigrants and health care has dogged both the health debate and the immigration debate.

Indeed, a bipartisan group trying to negotiate a broad immigration bill in the House failed in part because the lawmakers involved couldn't agree on how to handle health care costs associated with illegal immigrants who would be granted legal status.

The Congressional Budget Office said that passing the Senate's version of the immigration bill, which would legalize illegal immigrants and expand legal immigration by granting millions of new green cards, would end up costing $82.3 billion over the next decade in higherObamacare subsidies.

But those would mostly be going to new legal immigrants. Illegal immigrants wouldn't be eligible for Obamacare until after they gain green cards, which would come in a decade.

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